Depression and Dysphoria in the Dating World

Depression and dysphoria, which is a negative mood state that does not meet the clinical threshold of depression, impact social and interpersonal functioning. Research has shown that people with negative moods are less outgoing and receptive toward others. They exhibit withdrawal behaviors and tend to isolate themselves. Negative moods also cause people to view the world around them and everyone in it through a pessimistic lens. Past studies that have focused on how individuals with a history of depression or current depressed moods perceive the world around them have relied on actors to simulate personal interactions. Although these have provided some evidence into how negative affect influences perception, more realistic experiments are needed.

David S. Greenawalt of the Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans at the Texas A&M Health Science Center wanted to obtain more accurate evaluations. He recently led a study that required 104 participants to evaluate the outcome of dating scenarios. The participants had all been diagnosed with either past depression or current dysphoric states. They viewed recorded segments of first dates involving real people and were then asked whether they thought the people would want to continue dating. The results were compared with the real outcomes.

Contrary to many existing studies, Greenawalt found that the individuals with a history of depression were most accurate in their predictions, specifically with regard to negative outcomes. With respect to positive outcomes, the men with a history of depression were actually slightly more accurate in their predictions than the men with no past depressive symptoms. Greenawalt believes that men who have experienced depression in the past may be more sensitive to the negative responses of others in social situations. They may be more aware of body language and may have increased concern over rejection. All of these factors are common in depression, but this study shows that these conditions seem to persist in men. Greenawalt notes that depression may carry a bigger stigma for men because the insecurity, hopelessness, and sadness of depression contradict society’s image of the typical male.

In sum, the study revealed that negative predictions were more accurate in general, for men and women with a history of depressed mood, but not for those with current dysphoric symptoms. This warrants further exploration into negative social reactions in relation to depression persistence. Greenawalt added, “Going forward, it appears important to increase understanding of factors that may motivate greater accuracy in social perceptions, given that interpersonal functioning plays a central role in the recurrence and maintenance of depression.”

Greenawalt, D. S., Hayes, A. M. (2012). Is past depression or current dysphoria associated with social perception?Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology,31.4, 329-355.

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  • Savanna S

    May 10th, 2012 at 4:06 AM

    Now that could put a damper on the dating scene for you!

  • Marquise

    May 10th, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    I have felt many times this pressure to be the perfect male, and for me, someone who very much worries about body image and self esteem issues this has become particularly stressful to me. There is so much pressure to offer someone the perfect time and be that person that you think they want you to be, you kind of lose touch with who you are and your own needs.

  • T.Carter

    May 11th, 2012 at 11:59 PM

    surprised to see that those with depression were more accurate in predicting.I would have assumed their perception skills would be below par.

  • greta bell

    May 12th, 2012 at 4:38 AM

    OK so I have a little question- do readers this that dysphoria is a state of mind that could be a little better controlled by the patient than say a depressive? I mean if it doesn’t meet the criteria to exactly be depression, then what are they supposed to do to feel better other than seek mental health treatment? And if their symptoms don’t generally match those that warrant treatment for depression, are they simply expected to just put on a smiling face and move on?

  • Kennedy James

    May 14th, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    Dating truly does bring out the worst in so many of us. I look back on the dating scene that I was involved in before finding my mr right and think about how many times I modified who I was to try to fit into what I thought someone else wanted me to be. I had a really bad habit of not remaining true to myself, and I could kick myself now for behaving that way. I was so unconfident that it really did affect the guys that I went out with and unfortunately the way that I behaved too. I am not proud of it but it is what it is, and I am thankful to have found someone finally who loves me for me. I think that is really what most of us are looking for in the first place, love unconditionally.

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