Upside to Depression

Depression, it’s a feeling of sadness, helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness that will not go away. It interferes with your work, studies, sleep and your routine. Most people in depression feel like “they’re living in a black hole” with little hope if no hope at all.

But recent studies state that all is not lost, there is an up-side to depression.

A group of researchers,

  1. Bettina von Helversen (University of Basel, Switzerland),
  2. Andreas Wilke (Clarkson University),
  3. Tim Johnson (Stanford University),
  4. Gabriele Schmid (Technische Universität München, Germany), and
  5. Burghard Klapp (Charité Hospital Berlin, Germany)

Found depressed individuals do better than their non-depressed peers in sequential decision tasks.

In their study, they observed participants who were

  1. Healthy
  2. Clinical depressed
  3. Recovering from depression

They each were given a computer game from which they could earn money by hiring an applicant in a virtual job search.  Each applicant was assigned a monetary value and presented applicants one-at-a-time in random order.

The observed participants had to decide when to select a current applicant and halt the search.

This test resembled everyday decisions such as house shopping and dating. The task involved optimal strategy.

From this experiment, it’s noted that depressed patients approximated this optimal strategy more closely than non-depressed participants did.

  1. Healthy participants searched through relatively few candidates before selecting an applicant.
  2. Depressed participants searched more thoroughly and then made their choices. This resulted in higher payoffs.

For decades, psychologists have debated over the side-effect of depression, this study provides some of the first evidence that clinical depression may carry some benefits.

Previous researchers recognise most symptoms of depression as a hindrance to cognitive functioning and provide some evidence but only for individuals with low levels of non-clinical depression.

However, researchers such as Paul Andrews of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics and Andy Thomson of the University of Virginia propose that depression may promote analytical reasoning and persistence these are qualities that are viewed useful in complex tasks.


Clarkson University (2011, May 4). Positive effects of depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 5, 2011, from­/releases/2011/05/110504155113.htm

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