Angry? Sad? Ashamed? Depressed people can't tell difference, study finds

October 10, 2012
Angry? Sad? Ashamed? Depressed people can't tell difference, study finds

(Medical Xpress)—Clinically depressed people have a hard time telling the difference between negative emotions such as anger and guilt, a new University of Michigan study found.

The ability to distinguish between various affects how individuals deal with life stressors, said Emre Demiralp, a researcher in the U-M Department of Psychology and the lead author of the study recently published in .

Being unable to differentiate certain emotions from each other might lead to a person choosing an action that is not appropriate, thus exacerbating the problem, she said.

"It is difficult to improve your life without knowing whether you are sad or angry about some aspect of it," Demiralp said. "For example, imagine not having a gauge independently indicating the gasoline level of your car. It would be challenging to know when to stop for gas.

"We wanted to investigate whether people with clinical depression had emotional gauges that were informative and whether they experienced emotions with the same level of specificity and as healthy people."

The study involved 106 people ages 18-40, half of whom were diagnosed with . Participants carried a Palm Pilot for seven to eight days and recorded their emotions at random times each day.

They indicated how they felt based on seven (sad, anxious, angry, frustrated, ashamed, disgusted, guilty) and four positive emotions (happy, excited, alert, active) on a scale from one (not at all) to four (a great deal).

When participants experienced two emotions at the same time, they often found it challenging to distinguish between negative emotions than positive emotions, the study found.

Demiralp said that positive emotions serve as a buffer in coping with negative emotions for depressed people.

Explore further: Can feeling too good be bad? Positive emotions in bipolar disorder

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Young children learn to take turns for mutual gain

June 21, 2016

It takes children until they are about 5 years old to learn to take turns with others, while the social skill seems to elude chimpanzees, according to new findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.