New research could help people with depression tackle personal issues

Researchers at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have suggested new ways of thinking which could help people with depression tackle personal problems.

A study led by DMU’s Dr Saima Noreen considered the way people with depression think when tackling issues within themselves, known as intrapersonal problems.

SN research

(Photo by Milad Fakurian on Unsplash) 

To conduct the research, a team of psychologists from DMU and University of St Andrews worked with a group of participants, including both depressed and non-depressed individuals.

They ran a series of scenarios past them, including some intrapersonal problems like regulating emotions and considering self-esteem. For some of these problems, participants were encouraged to think ahead about the consequences of the problem being resolved, before solving the problem.

While overall, depressed participants exhibited a lower level of problem-solving abilities compared to their non-depressed counterparts, the findings highlighted those with depression became worse at problem solving when asked to think ahead about the positive outcomes that might result from a problem being resolved.

Dr Noreen said: “These findings, contrast with prior research highlighting the benefits of future thinking in problem-solving in depression, and sheds new light on the complex relationship between future thinking, problem-solving and depression."

She continued: “This research therefore suggests that different intervention strategies may be needed for different real-life problem-solving contexts.

“For example, for interpersonal problems, encouraging depressed individuals to ‘zoom out’ from the problem and consider the wider second order consequences of the problem being resolved may enhance problem solving ability. 

“While for intrapersonal problems, depressed participants should be encouraged to ‘zoom in’ and focus on the problem itself and how to solve the problem without thinking about the wider implications of the problem being resolved or remaining unresolved.”

Dr Noreen, said: “These findings are very important and suggest that for intrapersonal problems, generating consequences may impede or hinder depressed individuals’ efforts to solve problems and may be counterproductive.

“Despite the fact that depression and intrapersonal problems often go hand in hand, with intrapersonal problems contributing to the development and exacerbation of depression, this is the first study that has looked at intrapersonal problem solving in depression, whilst also focusing on future thinking.”

The full study can be found on PLOS ONE.

Posted on Thursday 24 August 2023

  Search news archive