Depressed Individuals Tend to Exaggerate Symptoms

Do you remember when you had a sore finger as a child and mom would make it feel better by simply applying a band aid and a kiss? It is quite likely that the finger did not hurt as much as we would like to believe and when we received the attention and comfort desired, the pain went away. Much of this same concept applies for those who are dealing with depression. This is not to say they have made up their depression, but instead that their depression is leading to the creation of symptoms that may or may not actually exist. Science Daily recently examined this phenomenon in a post which featured new research that found those who feel depressed tend to recall having more physical symptoms than they actually experienced. According to the study, depression – and not neuroticism – is the cause of over-reporting. Psychologist Jerry Suls is a professor and collegiate fellow in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He attributes the findings to the fact that depressed individuals recall experiences differently. As a result, these individuals tend to dwell on and exaggerate the bad. “People who felt depressed made the most errors when asked to remember their physical symptoms,” Suls said. “They tended to exaggerate their experience. For 30 years, the hypothesis has been that neuroticism is behind inflated reports of symptoms. We’re saying no — depression appears to be the big player,” Suls said. “We discovered that people high in neuroticism but low in depression are not likely to misremember symptoms.” While this study focused only on women, Suls and colleagues plan to examine results for a group of mixed genders. Those who participated in the studies were considered to be in good health overall. Suls also plans to investigate how depression affects symptoms reported in individuals with chronic illnesses.

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