Gut Check: Making simple sense out of life
By Lenore Skomal Erie Times-News staff blogger
Lenore Skomal is an award-winning author and veteran journalist in all forms of media. She is a weekly columnist and daily blogger for the Erie Times-News. She’s authored 17 published books, including an anthology of her columns, Burnt Toast available on her website www.lenoreskomal.net.   Read more about this blog.
Posted: April 23rd, 2013
Is depression contagious?

There is evidence suggesting it. It all depends on something called “cognitive vulnerability.” According to the journal of Clinical Psychological Sciences, “people are vulnerable to depression because they have a tendency to generate interpretations of stressful life events (and dysphoric moods) that have negative implications for their future and for their self-worth.”

Basically, the vulnerability exists before the symptoms of a psychological disorder appears. So when someone has a stressful experience, his or her cognitive vulnerability would shape the maladaptive response that would result in depression. So among those who are vulnerable to begin with, depression and other psychological disorders would be contagious.

And if you are vulnerable, it is possible, according to researchers, to have someone else’s depression rub off on you.

Now this is not so farfetched in my mind, especially when you think about bad moods. How many times have you been affected by someone else’s lousy mood? And conversely, when someone is in a great mood?

If depression is indeed contagious, the researchers at the University of Notre Dame also wanted to know if cognitive vulnerability is also contagious. And using a sampling of college freshmen and their roommates, found out that indeed it was.

What’s it all mean? Attitudes and the way we tend to view the world and respond to stressors are contagious, especially among those who live together and/or spend a lot of shared time.

In short: Hang out with people with positive outlooks.

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