Research carried out among a group of college students pointed to the conclusion that depression may be infectious, as compared to the popular belief it is not, and that certain depressive thoughts may spread like flu among people who spend time together in close proximity. While the disorder is the result of brain chemical imbalance, scientists are of the view that the social context combined with how an individual views oneself and the world may have a critical role to play in causing and sustaining the disorder. It is important to know here that almost 10 percent of college-age adults are said to be affected by this condition.
According to the researcher, thinking styles have an important role to play in determining an individual’s risk of the disorder, and one of the significant predictors of an individual’s future depression is how the individual thinks about negative moods and life stress. The research also studied the contagiousness of two factors that are associated with depression, the first of them being rumination and the other being hopelessness. While hopelessness was not observed to be contagious, rumination was.
Hopelessness is more related to one’s thoughts and has its roots in how one perceives oneself. It therefore was less likely to influence others while rumination, which refers to constant brooding about unfavorable factors and events, was observed to be more easily mirrored by other individuals. Rumination refers to a frame of mind in which individuals keep their thoughts focused on the negative aspects of life.
Symptoms of the disorder were not observed to be contagious, and individuals in the close company of someone with these symptoms were not observed to be at an increased risk of developing the condition. However, similar to negative outlook and thinking, healthy thinking was also observed to be contagious as individuals in the close company of people with a positive thinking were found to develop positive thinking themselves.
These findings can contribute to finding new ways of preventing and treating depression in individuals. Therapists will be better able to trace and analyze the causes of depression in an individual and to provide individuals with information about the contagious effect of negative thinking styles. Moreover, such information will help therapists in the identification of negative thoughts. Therapists can then provide patients with examples of healthier, more adaptive thinking styles.