Study Finds That Focusing on the Past May Worsen Symptoms of Depression

A study recently published in the “Journal of Psychiatric Research” discovered that childhood trauma was linked to higher symptoms of depression, particularly in individuals who demonstrated a tendency to focus on the past instead of the future or even the present. Clinical depression, which is also known as major depressive disorder, is among the most common mental health conditions in the world. Childhood trauma is a typical feature of the disorder.

The authors of the stud — Yingying Wang and colleagues — suggest that a personality factor may play a role in this association between depression and early trauma, noting that an individual’s tendency to focus more on the past than the present as well as the future has been associated with both depressive symptomology and childhood trauma. The researchers sought to investigate whether focusing on the past was a trait that was present before depression set in or was its consequence.

For their study, they recruited almost a hundred patients who suffer from major depressive disorder and nearly 70 subjects who had minimal symptoms of depression or hadn’t been diagnosed with any psychiatric condition. The latter group served as the control population. Each participant was then asked to complete a self-report questionnaire that measured five time perspectives of future, hedonistic present, fatalistic present, negative past and positive past as well as five types of childhood maltreatment. Time perspective refers to an individual’s tendency to orient their thoughts toward the future, present and past.

The researchers discovered that, in comparison with the participants without depression, those who suffered from depression demonstrated a greater tendency toward a fatalistic present perspective and a negative past perspective. In addition to this, they demonstrated a lower tendency toward future perspectives and positive past.

The researchers also found that participants tended to focus more on the past than the future and present if there was more childhood trauma in their past, noting that they demonstrated serious symptoms of depression the more they focused on the past.

To learn whether differences in time perspective emerged with depression or if they were already present before the disorder set in, the researchers then had almost half of the participants go through a five-day therapy that involved their dorsolateral prefrontal cortex being stimulated through transcranial magnetic stimulation. The scientists observed a reduction in symptoms of depression but saw no impact on the participant’s time perspective, which led them to the conclusion that differences in time perspective were present even before symptoms of depression began to manifest.

Not everyone has been benefiting from the existing treatments for depression, possibly because those medicines didn’t address the root cause of the condition. The new class of mental health treatments being developed by companies such as Cybin Inc. (NEO: CYBN) (OTCQB: CLXPF) offer patients hope for superior clinical outcomes since the active pharmaceutical ingredients being targeted by these companies often restructure the brain and decrease thought patterns that perpetuate the mental health disease.

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