Study Finds Looking At Angry Faces May Reveal Risk For Depression

faces depression

Relapse is a common but troubling symptom of depression, with anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of people who experience one or more depressive episodes going on to experience another episode.

While the causes of relapse are often unclear, new research from Binghamton University, published last week in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, suggests that an attentional bias towards negative facial expressions may be one risk factor.

The first-of-its-kind study asked 60 women with a history of depression and 100 women with no history of depression to play a computer-based game. They were rapidly shown a series of paired images of faces — one with a neutral expression and the other with an angry, happy or sad expression — while researchers tracked their eye movements.

The researchers found that those with a past history of depression paid significantly more attention to the angry faces. Among the women with a history of depression, those who looked at the angry faces the most were at the greatest risk for developing depression again over the course of the study’s two-year follow-up period.

This suggests that attentional biases might be able to predict a person’s risk for depression relapse, according to researchers. The findings may also open up the possibility of new preventative treatments to help individuals with a history of depression reduce their tendency to focus on negative facial expressions.

“This is exciting because, although we know that depression is a debilitating and highly recurrent disorder, we do not have good tests to identify which people are at greatest risk for relapse,” Dr. Brandon Gibb, director of the Mood Disorders Center at the university and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email. “We believe that this research is an important first step in identifying —> Read More