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J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2017 Mar;54:278-284. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2016.10.003. Epub 2016 Oct 18.

Let it go: Depression facilitates disengagement from unattainable goals.

Author information

1
Department of General Psychology II, Institute for Psychology, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Am Steiger 3, Haus 1, D-07743 Jena, Germany. Electronic address: katkoppe@gmail.com.
2
Department of General Psychology II, Institute for Psychology, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Am Steiger 3, Haus 1, D-07743 Jena, Germany. Electronic address: klaus.rothermund@uni-jena.de.

Abstract

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:

Previous studies have demonstrated that clinging to unattainable goals is linked to the onset of depression. The present study investigated whether symptoms of a clinical depression are adaptive in that they facilitate disengagement from unattainable goals.

METHODS:

A group of depressive inpatients (n = 40) was compared to a non-depressive control group (n = 38) in regard to how much time they spent on unsolvable anagrams, while controlling for group differences in the time spent on solvable anagrams.

RESULTS:

In line with our hypothesis, depressive inpatients spent less time on unsolvable anagrams. There was no group difference in the time needed to solve the solvable anagrams.

LIMITATIONS:

Our study tested disengagement from anagram tasks in the lab in a sample of depressive inpatients and thus may not be representative for contexts of disengagement from personal goals outside the lab or for people with milder or briefer forms of depression. Follow-up questions thus concern the development of goal disengagement processes in everyday life during the course of a major depressive episode.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our findings provide evidence for the view that clinical depression, although pathological, might also serve an adaptive function. We discuss possible implications of our findings for psychotherapy.

KEYWORDS:

Anagram task; Depression; Disengagement; Therapy of depression; Unsolvable task

PMID:
27783964
DOI:
10.1016/j.jbtep.2016.10.003
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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