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The symptom of depression that we don't talk about.

Mamamia logo Mamamia 11/11/2017 Jessica Wang

For those struggling with depression, talking about it can be tough.

Sufferers report an overwhelming sense of negative emotion, without any clarity as to exactly what’s causing it.

But research published by Physchological Science shows that in itself is a symptom of the disease – the inability to tell the difference between which negative emotions are being felt.

The study was the first to show that people diagnosed with MDD (major depressive disorder) “experience negative emotions with less differentiation in their daily lives than healthy individuals,” meaning that common feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, disgust, shame and anxiety blur into one.

Individuals not suffering from the disorder can differentiate between feeling ashamed, angry, anxious or guilty, while those with MDD may struggle to tell those different emotions apart.

Despite this being a significant feature of this disorder, we do not speak about it nearly enough.

Co-author of the study Dr Emre Demiralp says, “it is difficult to improve your life without knowing whether you are sad or angry about some aspect of it. For example, imagine not having a gauge independently indicating the gasoline level of your car. It would be challenging to know when to stop for gas”.

Dr Demiralp suggests that “being specific about your negative emotions” might be good for you.

“Is it anger, shame, guilt or some other emotion? Be specific.

“This can help you circumvent it and improve your life,” he says.

According to the World Health Organisation depression is the leading cause of disability world wide, and this discovery could be a huge step in how doctors establish causation, and prescribe treatment, and how friends and family of sufferers can approach the topic.

Seeking treatment for mental health is one of the biggest barriers to its recovery, with the Black Dog Institute reporting that “54% of people with mental illness do not access any treatment,” and are forced to suffer in silence.

To put that into perspective, the same report also states that the “proportion of people with mental illness accessing treatment is half that of people with physical disorders”.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800..

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