Don’t Worry, Be Happy

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” may be some sage advice.  While plenty of research has connected worry to anxiety, its relation to depression has only recently been explored.  A team of Korean psychologists found that people who worry are prone to show signs of depression, particularly when they ruminate extensively.

A more clinical way to describe worry is Intolerance of Uncertainty (IU).  People who suffer from IU “regard ambiguity as stressful, frustrating, and anxiety provoking, and believe that uncertain situations should be avoided.”  Additionally, they overreact to the possibility of something bad occurring even when the threat is minimal at best.  In order to identify the connection between IU, depression, and anxiety, the researchers decided to focus on individuals also dealing with major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

The research team selected 71 subjects, aged 20-50 years old, who were receiving outpatient care for major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder.  Each participant completed a series of surveys, including the Penn State Worry Questionnaire and Ruminative Response Scale, which have established scales for measuring both worry and rumination.  Upon completion of the tests, the researchers conducted correlational analyses on all data sets.

The results reconfirmed a link between worry and anxiety, while also establishing a connection between depression and worry.  More specifically, the researchers found a strong correlation for the depressed individuals diagnosed with IU who ruminated and dwelled on their thoughts.  The researchers find this correlation understandable since people with depression often repeat troublesome thoughts to themselves, which worsen their mood.  Although the study will need to be recreated with a larger sample size and more males before it can be confirmed, the data warrants further examination of rumination and depression.

While previous research has indicated that worrying can have its benefits, when it is prolonged and repeated, the thoughts can worsen your mental state.  Don’t allow your worrying to be counterproductive.  Rather than permitting a thought of uncertainty consume you, briefly consider it before moving on to a happier train of thought.

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