diseases

Preventing Depression: Rumination and negative perception of faces as vulnerability factors

 The development and maintenance of depression are strongly influenced by rumination , an important vulnerability factor for this disorder. Studies on non-clinical samples have in fact shown that the presence of rumination predicted an increase in depressed mood and the onset of depressive episodes, both in adults and adolescents. Additionally, women seem to ruminate more about why they feel sad and the possible consequences of feeling this way.

Ruminative thinking can be divided into two components: one focused on self – when thinking persists on the causes and consequences of depressed mood and on self-reproach for one’s condition – the other focused on depressive symptoms – as a deficit cognitive disorders, somatic disorders, low motivation and anhedonia. It is important to distinguish between these two components when looking at rumination as a factor of vulnerability factor for depression or a predictor of an unfavorable course: it seems that ruminative thinking focused on symptoms may represent an important goal of preventive strategies aimed at reducing the risk of onset. of depressive disorders. We will soon find out why.

Furthermore, some previous research has shown that rumination was associated with a distorted perception of negative emotions in the facial expressions of others; starting from what has been reported so far, the German research group, with its study (Suslow, Wildenauer, G√ľnther, 2019), wanted to investigate the relationship between rumination and negative prejudices in the perception of faces in healthy subjects.

The sample consisted of 100 healthy young women (mean age 23.8 years) and with no history of clinical depression . The hypothesis was that the habitual rumination about depressive symptoms was related to the negative interpretation of the facial expression of others, independent of other relevant factors.

The women involved completed the Response Style Questionnaire (ask the subject what he usually does when he feels depressed); depressive symptoms, dysfunctional attitudes (in another study, dysfunctional attitudes tended to be positively associated with the perception of negative emotions in unambiguous faces in clinically depressed patients) and anxiety were also measuredIn addition, the measurement of intelligence was included as a control variable since low intelligence was found to be a risk factor for the development of mood disorders. perception of facial expressions (Perception of Facial Expressions Questionnaire by Bouhuys et al., 1995), using linear drawings of faces (very schematic faces).

Symptom-based (but not self-focused) rumination was positively associated with the perception of negative emotions in ambiguous and unambiguous negative faces. Thus, ruminative tendencies go hand in hand with a negative bias in the perception of other people’s facial expressions not only in depressed patients but also in non-clinically depressed individuals.

One possible explanation may be that people often use their negative affects as information when evaluating other people or situations (Schwarz & Clore, 1987).

An interesting result concerns intelligence: it was negatively correlated with the level of depressive symptoms and the perception of negative emotions in unambiguous (ie unequivocally negative) faces. The researchers speculated that smarter individuals might be less biased when perceiving the face because they are more prone to analysis and base their judgments on objective facial expressions and features. According to the researchers, it is also possible that more intelligent individuals are less dysphoric and therefore less biased when perceiving the face.

At the level of prevention , the reduction of ruminative thinking in healthy people could be a promising goal for an intervention that aims to reduce the risk of future onset of depression , which should be especially dedicated to adolescents and young adults given the average age. of onset.

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