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Why do some get hooked to depression?
Published on 4 Jun. 2011 12:24 AM IST
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We all have a fight with a friend, sometimes a divorce, the loss of a parent. But most of us get over it. Only some go on to develop major depression and stay hooked. Why? Now a new study suggests part of the reason may be that people with depression get stuck on bad thoughts because they’re unable to turn their attention away.
“They basically get stuck in a mindset where they relive what happened to them over and over again,” says Jutta Joormann, psychologist at the University of Miami, who led the study, reports the journal Psychological Science.
She co-wrote the new study with Sara Levens and Ian H. Gotlib of Stanford University. “Even though they think, oh, it’s not helpful, I should stop thinking about this, I should get on with my life - they can’t stop doing it,” she says, according to a Miami statement. So, Joormann thought, maybe people who get stuck on negative thoughts have problems turning their mind to a new topic.
Joormann and colleagues recruited 26 people with depression and 27 people who had never had depression. Each person sat in front of a computer and was shown three words, one at a time for a second each.
Then, they were told to remember the words either in the order they were presented or in backward order.
The computer then presented one of the three words and they were supposed to respond as quickly as they could whether that word was first, second, or third in the list. The faster they were able to give a correct answer, the better they were at thinking flexibly.
People with depression had trouble re-ordering the words in their head; if they were asked to remember the words in reverse order, they took longer to give the correct answer. They had a particularly hard time if the three words had negative meanings, like “death” or “sadness.”
“The order of the words sort of gets stuck in their working memory, especially when the words are negative,” Joormann says. She also found that people who had moretrouble with this are also more likely to ruminate on their troubles.

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