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: Feeling guilty versus feeling angry—who can tell the difference?

Related Stories

Recommended for you

The birth of politics in children—the case of dominance

September 26, 2016

As they grow up, do children become young Robin Hoods? Depending on their age, they do not allocate resources in the same way between dominant and subordinate individuals. Thus a tendency towards egalitarianism develops and ...

Oxytocin enhances spirituality, new study says

September 21, 2016

Oxytocin has been dubbed the "love hormone" for its role promoting social bonding, altruism and more. Now new research from Duke University suggests the hormone may also support spirituality.

Study reveals a biological link between stress and obesity

September 21, 2016

Metabolic and anxiety-related disorders both pose a significant healthcare burden, and are in the spotlight of contemporary research and therapeutic efforts. Although intuitively we assume that these two phenomena overlap, ...

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.