Sadness, apathy, preoccupation–these traits come to mind when people think about depression, the world’s most frequently diagnosed mental disorder. Yet there’s new evidence that depression has a positive side-effect: Depressed people perform better in certain types of tasks. Should this make you happy?
Does this mean that it’s something you should put on your resume if you’re looking for a job? In a new study, participants–who were healthy, clinically depressed, or recovering from depression–played a computer game in which they could earn money by hiring an applicant in a simulated job search. The participants faced the challenge of determining when to halt search and select the current applicant. Depressed patients did better at this than non-depressed participants did. While healthy participants searched through relatively few candidates before selecting an applicant, depressed participants searched more thoroughly and made choices that resulted in higher payoffs.
But depressed people can be helped: Children whose mothers are successfully treated for depression show progressive and marked improvement in their own behaviors even a year after their moms discontinue treatment, and the faster mothers got better, the faster their kids improved–and the greater the degree of improvement experienced. Researcher Madhukar Trivedi says, "If you treat the mother when she is depressed and don’t even go through the process of treating the children of these mothers, they still get better as their mothers get better."
For decades, psychologists have debated whether depression has positive side-effects. This discovery provides the first evidence that clinical depression may carry some benefits.
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