People with depression often have difficulty moving their minds away from the negative thoughts. Now, a new study provides evidential proof that those who suffer with depression ruminate on bad thoughts due to working memory. “They basically get stuck in a mindset where they relive what happened to them over and over again,” says Jutta Joormann of the University of Miami and co-author of the study. Joorman believes that people with depression are unable to redirect their mind and therefore continue thinking about negative events. “Even though they think, oh, it’s not helpful, I should stop thinking about this, I should get on with my life-they can’t stop doing it,” she says.
Joorman’s team decided to explore working memory in people with depression to determine what role it plays with regard to negative thoughts. The researchers enlisted 27 people without depression and 26 people with depressive symptoms for the study. They used a computer to display three words consecutively and asked the participants to remember the words in order, or in reverse. They were then asked to categorize the word as it was displayed on the computer screen.
The researchers noticed that the depressed participants had difficulty placing the words in order, whether forward or backward. When the prompts were negative words, such as “sadness” or “death,” their response time was delayed even further. “The order of the words sort of gets stuck in their working memory, especially when the words are negative,” says Joormann. She went on to say that their findings revealed that the participants who had the most difficulty with this task were also more likely to spend time pondering and thinking about troubling situations. Joorman hopes that this new research will lead to treatment options for people with depression that will teach them how to redirect their minds away from their negative thoughts.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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