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    Teens who can describe negative emotions can stave off depression



    Summary: Teens who can differentiate their negative emotions, rather than generalize how they feel, are less prone to depression.

    Source: Journal Emotion.

    Teenagers who can describe their negative emotions in precise and subtle ways are better protected against depression than their peers who can’t. That’s the conclusion of a new study about negative emotion differentiation, the ability to make fine-grained differences between negative emotions and apply precise labels.

    Those who score low on negative emotion differentiation(NED) are likely to describe their feelings in more general terms such as “bad” or “upset.” As a result, they benefit less from useful lessons encoded in their negative emotions, including the ability to develop coping strategies that could help them manage how they feel.

    Once you know the proper information about negative emotions, you can use it to help determine the best course of action. The research team found that a low NED strengthens the link between stressful life events and depression, leading to reduced psychological well-being.

    By focusing particularly on adolescence, which marks a time of heightened risk for depression, the study narrowed in on a gap in the research to date. Previous research suggests that during adolescence a person’s NED descends to its lowest point, compared to that of younger children or adults.

    The researchers recruited 233 mid-adolescents in the greater Rochester area with an average age of nearly 16 (54 percent of them being female) and carried diagnostic interviews to analyse the participants for depression.

    Next, the teenagers reported their emotions four times daily for a period of seven days. After one and a half years, the team conducted follow-up interviews with the original subjects (of whom 193 returned) to study longitudinal results.

    The researchers discovered that young adults who are poor at differentiating their negative emotions are more likely to develop depressive symptoms following stressful life events. Conversely, those who score high on NED are better at regulating the emotional and behavioral aftermath of being exposed to stress, thereby reducing the chances of having negative emotions escalate into a clinically significant depression over time.

    Published: Journal Emotion.

    Contact: Lisa Starr, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

    Details: Image source IStock


    Hi, I’m Aarti, My Psychoanalytical approach towards my clients is to empower them to better their lives through improving their relationship with themselves. I believe shame and guilt is a common barrier to change. I aim to guide my clients through re authoring their narratives where shame, guilt, and other problems have less power and take up less space.

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