A new study has discovered that those suffering from clinical depression are more likely to set vague goals. Since they are not specific, these goals are harder to achieve and it leads to a cycle of negative thoughts.
During her research, Dr Joanne Dickson[ from the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society] studied the lists of personal goals prepared by those who suffered with depression and those who did not suffer from depression.
The study participants had to make a list of goals – whether short, medium or long-term. The research team categorised the goals as per the goal’s specificity. An example of an abstract or vague goal could be ‘to be happy’ whereas, a goal such as ‘improve my 5-mile marathon time this summer’ would represent a more specific goal.
The study revealed that though number of goals in both groups was the same, goals listed by those with depression were more general and abstract. Also, depressed people were far more likely to give vague reasons for success or failure in meeting those goals.
Dr Joanne Dickson said: “We know that depression is associated with negative thoughts and a tendency to overgeneralise, particularly in reference to how people think about themselves and their past memories.”
“This study, for the first time, examined whether this trait also encompasses personal goals. We found that the goals that people with clinical depression listed lacked a specific focus, making it more difficult to achieve them and therefore creating a downward cycle of negative thoughts.”
“These findings could inform the development of effective new ways of treating clinical depression.”
“Helping depressed people set specific goals and generate specific reasons for goal achievement may increase their chances of realising them which could break the cycle of negativity which is coupled with depression.”