Is Depression Contagious?

Is depression contagious?

Has it ever happened to you that you were somewhat depressed, you go to a meeting and end up being infected with enthusiasm or joy? Or vice versa, that you were happy and your emotion has faded because the mood in the environment was not good?

This can happen because emotions are contagious. We acquire the emotional states of our social environment, so that there is no asynchrony between us and others, and thus we fit into the environment. That’s why sometimes we don’t feel like being in happy places when we are sad and vice versa. This happens thanks to mirror neurons and empathy.

But, if emotions can stick… Can emotional disorders, such as depression, be spread? In this article I describe what depression is, if it can be spread and what mirror neurons are. Keep reading this article and you will have your answer.

What is depression?

Depression, also called major depressive disorder, is an emotional disorder. It is distinguished by a depressed emotional state or by the loss of interest or pleasure in doing anything, present quite constantly.

To be able to diagnose this disorder, the person must suffer these symptoms for at least two consecutive weeks and a maximum of two years. In addition, three or more of the following symptoms must necessarily occur almost every day.

Physical symptoms

Physical symptoms are those that are reflected at the body level in an obvious way, which affects our physical health. These are:

Cognitive symptoms

Cognitive symptoms are those referring to problems at the level of thought and attention, and the behaviors derived from having these unpleasant thoughts as an absolute belief:

You may be interested:  PsicoReg: a Very Useful App for Psychologists

This last symptom occurs in more serious cases, and can clearly pose a danger to your life and physical integrity. For them, it is relevant to treat cases of depression in time and ask for professional help if you see yourself reflected by this psychological disorder.

Can depression be contagious?

The truth is that the question of whether depression is contagious has yet to be answered by science. Currently it is proposed as a hypothesis, but studied only by a few investigations. This hypothesis is based on the proven fact that emotional states can be transferred from one person to another in the same social environment.

The contagion of emotions

Human beings are social by nature, so we have basic needs such as receiving love, protection and support to guarantee our survival. Therefore, we preserve several innate mechanisms and behaviors that seek to ensure our social relationships, including emotions.

These fulfill an adaptive function by serving as social communication through body expression and tone of voice. This non-verbal communication seeks to ensure that our environment empathizes with us and meets our needs and desires, in addition to the fact that emotionally connecting strengthens much stronger bonds.

Taking another step in the same line, There is a hypothesis that part of the function of expressing emotions is to spread them, whether pleasant or unpleasant. For example, when we smile or laugh naturally, it is common for people watching us to tend to smile in response or even laugh, which to a certain extent causes them to experience the same emotion as us.

The same thing happens when we are crying, people around us may become emotional or, at the very least, show pity in their tone and face. In this way, emotions become a collective state rather than just an individual one. By experiencing it firsthand, they can feel more in tune with us and reinforce the emotional bond between us. And it all happens thanks to mirror neurons.

You may be interested:  Dissociative Amnesia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Mirror neurons and emotions

Mirror neurons are cells of the nervous system with the peculiarity that they are activated in a similar way both when performing an action and when we observe another person performing the same action. That is, when you are watching someone play soccer, if you know how to play, the same neurons will be activated that are activated when you are playing.

In this way, you give the impression to your brain that you are performing the action on both occasions. These cells are responsible for us being able to acquire skills and learning through observation, for us being able to imitate other people and, what is interesting in this article, for us being able to empathize with others.

When we see someone express an emotion, our brain captures the information and makes it its own. It activates the same brain neurons, so that we feel the same emotions, sometimes we even repeat their non-verbal communication, and it helps us intuit what the person needs or what action they are going to take as a result of their emotion. It is easier for activation to occur the better we know the person and the greater the emotional bond we have.

However, if we are not good at interpreting the non-verbal communication of other people, it will be difficult for us to empathize. The corresponding mirror neurons will not be activated if we do not understand what is happening, if their gesture and tone is neutral to us or we believe that they are expressing a different emotion. These cells are not always accurate.

You may be interested:  How to Overcome Empty Nest Syndrome

The contagion of depression

Recent scientific evidence indicates that It is possible that living with, having family members, having a partner or being friends with a person with major depression could lead to showing depressive symptoms over time. The role of mirror neurons in this process is still being investigated, but the hypothesis is that it works the same as with emotions. Repetitive negative thoughts stand out among the infected symptoms.

However, it should be noted that this contagion only occurs after long periods of interaction with this person, it cannot occur with someone with whom you have spoken for a short time. This may be something common to other animals, since some of the research that supports this contagion hypothesis had laboratory rats as subjects.

And why doesn’t it happen the other way around, and those with depression are infected with the well-being of others? Because there is evidence in various research that people who suffer from major depression:

These symptoms make it difficult for the person with depression to get into a more pleasant emotional state, unfortunately. If this were not the case, it would be very interesting to take advantage of the contagion of emotions in therapy so that people with depression can overcome their disorder. It may also be worth trying, investigating further and training your mirror neurons so that they can be infected with pleasant emotions.