“Am I Sad, Guilty, or Angry – What?!” - Study Shows Depressed People Can’t Tell the Difference

By Lisa Franchi on October 11, 2012

Being able to differentiate various emotions from one another is essential in stress management as it helps a person decide what the best response is on a particular situation. People who have a hard time identifying emotions are more likely to address problems inappropriately. They may overreact, which makes the problem worse, or inefficiently react, which doesn’t solve the problem at all.

In a new study headed by Emre Demiralp from the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan, researchers found that clinically depressed individuals have difficulty identifying the difference between negative emotions such as anger and guilt.

Clinically Depressed People Can’t Tell the Difference

The study involved 106 people ages 18-40, half of whom were diagnosed of clinical depression. On their experiment, the researchers wanted to know if clinically depressed people had informative emotional gauges and whether they experienced emotions with the same level of differentiation and specificity like mentally healthy people do.

As part of the study, participants carried palm pilot for 8 days on which they recorded their emotions at random times each day. They were asked to tell what they felt based on 7 negative emotions – anxious, sad, ashamed, disgusted, guilty, angry and frustrated, and 4 positive emotions – happy, alert, active, or excited. Participants also rated the level of emotions they felt, one being the lowest and four, the highest.

The researchers noticed that participants who were clinically depressed find it more challenging to distinguish between negative emotions. However, they did not have any problem identifying the positive ones.

According to Demiralp, it is difficult to improve one’s life without knowing whether they should be sad or angry about some aspects of it. Imagine not having a gauge that indicates gasoline level of your car, she said, it could be challenging to know when to stop. She also added that positive emotions serve as a buffer used in dealing with negative emotions among depressed individuals.

Their findings were published in the journal Psychological Science.


Source of this article:

Angry? Sad? Ashamed? Depressed people can’t tell difference, study finds, University of Michigan

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