According to a recent study that was published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, people who think a specific way may make them more susceptible to depression within six months after being exposed to others with the condition. The study was conducted by psychological scientists Gerald Haeffel and Jennifer Hames of the University of Notre Dame.
Previous studies have attempted to prove that the people who don’t respond well to negative happenings in their lives and who also view the negative events in their lives as somehow caused by their own insufficiencies are more likely to become depressed. This “cognitive vulnerability” is viewed by some experts as a way to be able to predict depressive episodes in a person’s future. These cognitive vulnerabilities are also believed to become more solid in individuals during their teen years. Based on this knowledge, the researchers in this study sought to figure out if this behavior was contagious by observing the attitudes and behaviors of college roommates and conducting a survey afterward.
The results of their study showed that the “freshmen who were randomly assigned to a roommate with high levels of cognitive vulnerability were likely to ‘catch’ their roommate’s cognitive style and develop higher levels of cognitive vulnerability; those assigned to roommates who had low initial levels of cognitive vulnerability experienced decreases in their own levels. The contagion effect was evident at both the 3-month and 6-month assessments.”
If this study is proven true, it could help doctors better be able to provide better treatments for those newly-developed cases that may be safer. For example, should a patient’s depression be found to be caused by “contagion,” talk therapy and a change of environment will likely work better than antidepressant medications like Paxil or Effexor. The dangers linked to antidepressants like Paxil and Effexor include violent and suicidal thoughts and behaviors as well as birth defects in babies whose mothers take the drug while pregnant. Some of those defects include PPHN, spina bifida, neural tube defects and oral clefts. With this study in mind, newly diagnosed cases may be able to avoid the dangerous drugs and relieve their depression in a far safer way.