Someone recently asked me the following question: "My husband has been depressed for months. Now I'm getting depressed, too! Did I catch it from him?" My answer? Probably. Depression is most certainly contagious.
With that in mind, here are five prominent attributes of depression that make downer moods so easy to catch:
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1. The "negative cognitive triad." Psychologist Aaron Beck coined the term "negative cognitive triad" to describe three arenas in which depressive thinking is negative. Depressed folks see themselves, others and their futures through dark-colored glasses. For example, Owen was depressed for several months after losing his job. Julie, his wife, felt dragged down by Owen's constant, negative comments. Owen tried to be more upbeat, but his dialogue was always peppered with self-reproach.
Owen had also become uncharacteristically critical of his wife. As she headed to work feeling good about the way she looked, Owen ended his goodbyes with, "Do you really have to wear so much makeup?" As to his future, Owen would say, "I'm sure I'll never get another job I love as much as the one I lost." Eventually, Julie began to agree with him. His bad mood brought her down to his emotional level.
2. Negative energy. Just walking into a room where Owen was sitting was enough for Julie to feel her energy level sink. Sometimes she avoided talking to him. Even being in the same room with him seemed to let the air out of her proverbial balloon.
3. Social isolation. Eventually, Owen seldomly left the house. When the family was home, he'd stay in his room, alone with the TV.
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Soon, Julie followed suit and became a virtual shut-in. Bringing Owen with her to social gatherings was too painful. She could see that their friends, who used to love Owen, now avoided him. His dark cloud must have appeared contagious to them as well. Keep reading ...
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