Emotional Resilience Blog from The Fear Course

The latest research, realisations and thinking in the world of emotional resilience, anxiety and fear reduction from around the world.

Different types of control predicts depression

Different types of control predicts depression

Following on from the research articles reported in last week's blogs (here and here) about the links between anxiety and depression and the finding that people who avoid the object that is causing their anxiety are much more likely to have their anxiety turn to depression if the anxiety continues for some time, a third article just published sheds more light on the situation..

Largely there are three types of control that people use to cope with negative emotions: primary, secondary and disengagement control.
Primary control coping is based on changing and influencing our environment in order to cope. Choosing which friends to go out with based on who makes us feel good, problem solving to deal with the situation and engaging in emotion regulation techniques.
Secondary control is coping by adjusting ourselves to the environment, for example accepting the situation.
The third form of coping people engage in is to disengage completely or avoid the object or situation that is causing the negative emotion.

A study just published in Anxiety, Stress & Coping looked at the coping mechanisms of people who had previously been depressed and compared them with the coping mechanisms of people who have never been depressed
They found that people who had never had depression and who tend to use fewer primary coping skills in preference for avoidance coping strategies are significantly more likely to develop depression.
People, whether they had previously had depression or not, who develop secondary coping strategies, accepting the situation and their emotions (which is different to resignation), tend to see a decrease in their depressive symptoms.
They also discovered that people with greater levels of mental flexibility also tended to suffer from less depressive symptoms and recover more quickly from depression than people with less cognitive flexibility.

The researchers recommend that people at risk of depression should either be helped to develop emotion regulation strategies (primary control coping) or acceptance strategies (secondary control coping). Obviously learning both would be better, significantly reducing the risk of depression regardless of whether you have had it or not before.

 

Reference

Morris, M.C. et al (2014) Executive function moderates the relation between coping and depressive symptoms. Anxiety, Stress & Coping: An International Journal. 2014 June DOI: 10.1080/10615806.2014.925545

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