Why Some People Don’t Grieve - Understanding the Concept of Resilience

By Helen Holmes on February 01, 2012

Unemployment, bereavement, health problems, breakups or divorce, and other life’s upsetting experiences can lead to depression. But according to experts, not everyone who goes through these situations suffers from mental illness. There are people who have experienced a lot of difficulties yet were able to remain optimistic. Scientists call it resilience.

Can Resilience Be Acquired?

But whether or not resilience can be learned or acquired is still a big question mark for many scientists. In the UK, about a fifth of the population is likely to experience depression. Such data is very alarming. Depression is a major mental illness that can severely affect an individual’s life. Stress, tensions, and worries are all part of everyday life. When these things became too overwhelming, depression is likely to come next. But a group of researchers from Manchester University wondered why is it that there are some people who are able to handle things right even if they are in much worse situation than others. And according to the researchers, people are getting more depressed today than they were decades ago. With the support of the Medical Research Council, the researchers tried to find out more about resilience as they believe that a better understanding of this concept can benefit those who lack the ability to cope with depression.

The researchers tried to draw some information from previous studies that linked resilience to post traumatic disorder. Part of their findings showed that resilience can be connected to some of the brain functions. They include the cognitive flexibility which refers to the capacity of the mind to adapt to different situations. The researchers also added that the brain also has the ability to concentrate on processing happy memories or information than the sad ones.  

Why Some People Don’t Grieve

To further study the concept of resilience, the Manchester group of researchers headed by Dr Elliott studied two groups of people. One group is composed of resilient people while the other one is composed of those who lack the ability to cope with depressive things. They took saliva samples from the respondent to measure their stress levels and through a brain scanning procedure called magnetic resonance imaging, they tried to observe the brain functions of these people when performing specific tasks. The researchers call it emotional memory. The researchers asked the respondents to look at some pictures that have emotional impact. They were asked to memorise the images. Afterwards, the pictures will be shown to them and they would have to identify those that they have seen a while ago. The study is not yet finished. But according to the initial results, resilient people are more likely to recognise happy images over fearful ones.

This study somehow aims to develop a form of therapy that will boost resilience in people. According to Dr Rebecca Elliott, a ‘resilience pill’ which is a drug that is tailored to the brain structure is theoretically possible but as to whether people will accept it, she’s not very sure. The researchers are hopeful though that this resilience drug can be made available one day and more people will be able to avoid depression and some other mental illnesses.

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