Depression - Another Kind of Attention Deficit

Depressed people can't stop thinking negative thoughts

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Some of us ride the roller coaster of life's ups and downs better than others. Scientists are discovering that people with depression get stuck with negative thoughts they can't seem to shake.

A new study shows that depressed people are on a merry-go-round of negative thinking that they can't get off. They are simply unable to turn their attention away.

They're constantly reliving the bad things, says Jutta Joormann of the University of Miami and co-author of the study conducted jointly with Stanford University. She adds that depressed people understand what they're doing and want to move to happier thoughts, but aren't able to make the switch.

"Depressed people have trouble turning off negative thoughts."

Joorman and colleagues thought that depression may interfere with working memory, which has to do with the thoughts that a person keeps active in their minds.The study looked to see if in fact people who focus on negative thoughts have problems turning to other thoughts.

The study involved 26 people with depression and 27 people who had never been depressed. They sat in front of a computer screen and were given a set of three words. Participants were asked to recall the words in the orgiginal order in which they were presented and then in the reverse order.

Joorman found that depressed people had trouble remembering the words in reverse order. This was particularly true when the words were negative, i.e., "death" or "sadness."

Findings from this study, Joorman hopes, can be used to help depressed people learn how to train their minds to move away from negative thoughts.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 8, 2011
Last Updated:
June 9, 2011