28 April 2010

Research Tidbit #1

I am in the thick of secondary dissertation research. We have a initial ten or so pages due on Friday, which I have just started writing because I am a very organised person. Yes.

I found a new article yesterday that was a research report into a sociological study (very well set up) that was initiated to determine what the actual deficit in ability to give informed consent was for persons hospitalised for mental disorder. I'm not going to go into the results just now because I want to keep this brief but in reading the study I found out something new to me that apparently is common to depressed persons. That is, a distinct deficit in capacity to make decisions successfully. As I was reading their description of what this meant, I did absolutely recognise myself.

According to the study, depressed persons typically were less able to communicate a decision and once a decision had been communicated, they were much more likely to experience distress or regret - often on the presumption that the decision must have been the wrong one. I do this all the time. I had assumed that it was just a part of my character - I still tend largely to think it is - but it is interesting to see that it is a characteristic correlated with depression. I know that it gets worse when I'm depressed but as almost everything seems to get worse when I'm depressed I didn't think of it as having any special relation.

This has, of course, started me wondering whether a diminished capacity to make and communicate decisions is also a reverse predictor. That is, if depression predicts a diminished capacity to make and communicate decisions, does a diminished capacity to make and communicate decisions predict depression? Obviously, that couldn't ever be a single predictor of depression - I can think of other things it might predict - but I wonder whether it might constitute another way to confirm or disconfirm a diagnosis of depression or perhaps be a good indicator of severity.

What do you all think? Does this reflect your experience? Had you heard about it before?


  1. I will put up the bibliographical information for the study soon - just can't face it right now!

  2. I definitely find that to be true for me. When I'm depressed, I always question my decisions and am often frozen, not wanting to make any. Interesting study.

  3. I hadn't heard of the specific research, but I had heard of a correlation between impaired decision-making ability and depression. I have to say it rings very true for me, so much so that I use an incresed inability to decide (the frozen feeling Matthew Isaacson describes) as an early indicator to myself that I may be getting depressed. I don't find it as reliable nor as early a sign as problems with my memory, but if I find myself wandering round the supermarket unable to decide what I want to have for dinner that night, I know I'm in a pretty bad way.

  4. I have a personal example of that. During my last really, really bad depression where I was still trying to trudge through and make it to work everyday, I would go to my closet and it would take me over a half hour every morning just to find something to where. I have a huge wardrobe so it is just too much to think about. I always ended up pulling out this over-sized blue sweater. I guess it was the easiest thing to pull off of the hanger. I bet I wore that sucker three times a week during that terrible period in my life. I always regretted my choice and I looked like total crap in it. I threw that sweater in the trash. BTW, I just happened upon your blog and am enjoying reading it.