Do You Mostly See Angry Faces? You May Be Depressed.

OK.  Here's a new therapy.  Don't look for people who are angry at you.

Sounds pretty simple but we now know that people who pay a lot of attention to angry faces may be more prone to depression.

Up to 80 percent of individuals with a past history of depression will get depressed again in the future. However, little is known about the specific factors that put these people at risk. New research suggests that it may be due to the things you pay attention to in your life. 

I guess we're talking the cup half-full or half-empty.

 It makes perfect sense to me that if we're more attuned to negative things (angry faces), we're probably already more pessimistic.  And I guess those who are pessimistic are more likely to be depressed.

Researchers at Binghamton University recruited 160 women — 60 with a past history of depression, 100 with no history of depression. They showed each woman a series of two faces, one with a neutral expression and the other with either an angry, sad or happy expression, according to

Using eye-tracking, they found that women with a past history of depression paid more attention to the angry faces. More importantly, among women with a history of prior depression, those who tended to look the most at the angry faces were at greatest risk for developing depression again over the next two years.

“If you’re walking around day to day, your attention will just be drawn to certain things and you’ll tend to look at some things more than others. What we showed is if your attention is drawn to people who appear to be angry with you or critical of you, then you’re at risk for depression,” says Brandon Gibb, professor of psychology at Binghamton University and director of the Mood Disorders Institute and Center for Affective Science.

Now I get it.  Wouldn't you get depressed if the only people you looked for were the ones who were angry at you?

The fix?  It's relatively simple.  Computer programs and games are being used to retrain peoples’ attention. This approach has shown promise in the treatment of anxiety and is now being tested as a treatment for depression. Experts believe that, by showing the important role that attentional biases play in depression risk, if people can be pulled away from that, so may be their vulnerability to depression. 

Researchers believe that some people might be able to use this instead of traditional therapy or could use it as an adjunct to traditional treatment.


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