Teens that Get Stuck in a Mood May Be at Risk for Depression

All teens go through emotional turmoil, experiencing periods of high euphoria and sadness, fear or even anxiety. But a recent study suggests that teens that get stuck in an emotional state and experience emotional inertia are more likely to suffer major depression than teens that move freely through emotional climates. “How adolescents manage and regulate their intensified emotional life is a developmental challenge that is hypothesized to play a key part in the increased vulnerability for depression observed during this phase of the life span,” said Peter Kuppens of the University of Leuven and University of Melbourne, and lead author of the study. “In essence, it reflects the extent that one’s current emotional state is predictable from one’s prior emotional state. High emotional inertia thus reflects that a person’s emotional fluctuations show a high degree of momentum, with current emotional states being heavily influenced by previous states.”

Kuppens and his colleagues evaluated 165 adolescents ranging in age from 9-12, using the Early Adolescent Temperament Questionnaire-Revised (EATQ-R). The scale measured the temperament of the teens in relation to their ability to self-regulate, their emotional states, and their reactivity to situations. They also assessed them for depression and measured levels of anger, dysphoria and happiness at the onset of the study and again roughly three years later. For their study, the team instructed each teen and one family member to complete two tasks, one pleasant and one involving conflict. Based on the evaluations of their emotional inertia from these tasks, the researchers determined that the teens that got stuck in moods at the beginning of the study were more likely to development depression than those who exhibited emotional fluidity. The results showed that inertia for all three studied emotions was directly predictive of depression. “More importantly, they establish emotional inertia as a prospective risk factor for the onset of depressive disorder in adolescence, a life phase that involves a particular vulnerability for the development of mood disorder,” said the researchers. “Finally, our findings suggest the possibility that early detection of emotional inertia may help to identify youth at risk for mood disorder.”

Kuppens, P., Sheeber, L. B., Yap, M. B. H., Whittle, S., Simmons, J. G., & Allen, N. B. (2011, October 10). Emotional Inertia Prospectively Predicts the Onset of Depressive Disorder in Adolescence. Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025046

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • KEL


    October 18th, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    Its obvious that a person stuck with one thought is influenced by it and it reflects on his behavior.
    And not changing or shifting the focus also means the person is not sportive enough to try and think of something else and is probably depressed.

  • Jason


    October 18th, 2011 at 5:45 PM

    Dealing with raging hormones and the emotions that they can bring on can really send a teen into a tailspin. They are so overwhelmed that a lot of times they do not have the emotional capabilities to deal with it all. And if they are naturally a little more fragile it is easy to see how they could get stuck in this kind of depression. I guess the important thing to take note of is to realize the difference between those normal mood fluctuations and when something goes on a little longer then that. You have to pay attention to your teen and look out for the times when maybe they just need to process a few things and the times where there could seriously be the need for more help.

  • denny


    October 19th, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    if you’re pushed down you need to put in some effort and get back on your feet-a universal rule and works well in any aspect that you can think of!

    if there is something bad that happened,it is not the end of the world.it is a chance for you to show yourself how that bad thing cannot keep you down,how you can really get back at it and make it vanish.after all,after every dark night there is a bright day!

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