Focusing on Angry Faces May Predict Depression Relapse
the Psychiatry Advisor take:
As many as four out of five people who have experienced one episode of depression will experience another one later on. But new research indicates that having an attentional bias to angry faces may be predictive of a relapse of depression.
Mary Woody, MS, of Binghamton University in New York, and colleagues enrolled 160 women, 60 of whom had a past history of depression, while the remaining 100 had no such history. Each woman was shown a series of two faces on a monitor. One had a neutral expression, while the second one had either an angry, sad or happy expression.
Through eye tracking, women who had suffered from depression in the past paid more attention to the angry faces, the researchers reported in the journal Clinical Psychological Science. In addition, among women with prior depression, those who had an inclination to look at the angry faces the most had the highest risk of relapsing into depression over the next two years.
“We might be able to identify women who are at greatest risk for future depression just by something as simple as how they pay attention to different emotional expressions in their world,” Woody said in a statement.
Woody added that computer programs and games are being used to retrain depressed people’s focus away from attentional biases. This method has shown good results in treating anxiety and is also being examined for depression.
Women who had a prior history of depression that paid the most attention to angry faces on a screen were at greatest risk for relapse. Photo courtesy of Binghamton University.
Up to 80% of individuals with a past history of depression will get depressed again in the future. However, little is known about the specific factors that put these people at risk. New research suggests that it may be due to the things you pay attention to in your life.
Researchers at Binghamton University recruited 160 women — 60 with a past history of depression, 100 with no history of depression. They showed each woman a series of two faces, one with a neutral expression and the other with either an angry, sad or happy expression. Using eye-tracking, they found that women with a past history of depression paid more attention to the angry faces. More importantly, among women with a history of prior depression, those who tended to look the most at the angry faces were at greatest risk for developing depression again over the next two years.
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