For Depressed Patients, Time Seems Slower

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People with depression perceive time as passing much more slowly than people without the disorder, according to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Although they perceived time as passing more slowly, people with depression were still able to accurately judge the duration of specific time intervals.

The meta-analysis included results from 16 studies that included 433 participants with depression and 485 control participants. Across these studies, the researchers found that psychiatrists and psychologists consistently reported that patients with depression felt time “passed in slow motion.” Subjectively, participants with depression saw time as moving very slowly or even coming to a complete halt.

The second part of the analysis included studies that evaluated the ability to identify durations of time. For example, participants were asked to estimate the length of a movie in minutes, or identify the time difference of two sounds. In these studies, participants with depression performed similarly to participants without depression.

The researchers note that their findings are still preliminary and open several avenues for new studies. In the future, they hope to investigate the effects of antidepressants and psychotherapy on depressed patients’ perception of time. Additionally, they are unsure how this perception differs between patients with bipolar disorder and patients with non-bipolar depression.

For Depressed Patients, Time Seems Slower
For Depressed Patients, Time Seems Slower

Time perception is highly subjective and usually depends on the relevant situation so that, for instance, your sense of how fast or slow time is passing can be influenced by whether you are waiting for something or if a deadline is approaching.

Patients suffering from depression appear to experience time differently than healthy individuals. Statements made by corresponding patients indicate that for them time seems to pass extremely slowly or even stands still.

Psychologists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have collated relevant studies on the subject to analyze them in a so-called meta-study. What they found was that, in comparison with healthy individuals, depressed individuals actually do have a subjective feeling that time is passing more slowly. However, when asked to judge the duration of a specific time interval, such as two seconds or two minutes, their estimates are just as accurate as those of healthy subjects.

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