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Being pessimistic about the future may cause depression, new study by Martin Seligman and Ann Marie Roepke finds


Stashed in: Brain, Awesome, The Future, Psychology!, Depression, Correlation is not causation., @emilialahti, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mental Health, @RonaldLHayes1

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Not seeing a good future causes depression, not the other way around.

It’s often assumed that it’s depression that causes a pessimistic view of the future.

But it could be the other way around, a new study finds.

Being pessimistic about the future may actually cause depression.

Professor Martin Seligman and Ann Marie Roepke reviewed the research on prospection.

Prospection refers to how we think about the future.

Their conclusions are published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology (Roepke & Seligman, 2015).

They find that there are three ways in which thinking about the future may cause depression:

  • Poor generation of possible futures.
  • Poor evaluation of possible future.
  • Negative beliefs about the future.

Depression also likely feeds back into more negative views of the future, creating a vicious circle.

Fortunately, these types of thinking can be addressed by talk therapies such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).

The study’s authors write:

“Prospection belongs front and centre in the study of depression.

Laboratory studies are needed to confirm that faulty prospection does drive depression and to help us determine how prospection can be improved.

We hope clinical scientists will invest in research on prospection to shed more light on a crucial and underappreciated process that may underlie much more than depression.

An understanding of how prospection shapes psychopathology may enable researchers to create more effective treatments and help distressed individuals to create brighter futures.”

Dr. Seligman had an important influence on my early research interests. I particularly admire how his initial theory of "learned helplessness" has evolved into a powerful system of positive psychology. As Adam points out, this system that can create effective behavioral approaches to treat depression, and help us understand much of our emotional life is a choice rather than simply a biochemical event. Unfortunately, more widespread implementation of his therapeutic models requires fundamental changes in medical economics that currently encourage pharmacological interventions. Zeitgeist is a ruthless opponent.    

ronald hayes

I'd like to think that with knowledge, people learn to ask for behavioral approaches as therapy.

That's why I keep looking for more research as well as more anecdotes that talk about the benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy over taking pills.

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