Depression and marital stress


Marital stress may make some people more vulnerable to depression. People who experience chronic marital stress are less able to savor positive experiences, a symptom of depression. They are also more likely to report other symptoms as well according to a new study from University of Wisconsin-Madison. The findings may help researchers to understand what makes some people more vulnerable to mental and emotional health challenges.

A vulnerable emotional style leading to depression

“This is not an obvious consequence, if you will, of marital stress, but it’s one I think is extraordinarily important because of the cascade of changes that may be associated,” explained Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds to the UW’s Waisman Center. “This is the signature of an emotional style that reveals vulnerability to depression.”

A healthy marriage may not be stress free

Generally, married people are happier and healthier than single people. That doesn’t mean the relationship is immune to stress. And just because there is stress, doesn’t mean there is depression. “How is it that a stressor gets under your skin and how does that make some more vulnerable to maladaptive responses?” questioned UW-Madison graduate student Regina Lapate, lead author. Researchers recruited married couples to answer questionnaires and rate their stress experience. Nine years later, they were asked to answer the questions again. Two years after that, they were invited to the lab to undergo emotional response testing to find out how resilient they were to a negative experience. They found that people who had shorter responses to positive stimuli also reported the most stress in their marriage.

How can interventions improve the response?

“To paraphrase the bumper sticker: ‘Stress happens’,” noted Davidson. “There is no such thing as leading a life completely buffered form the slings and arrows of everyday life.” But we should try to stop it from happening in the first place. “How we can use simple interventions to actually change this response? What can we do to learn to cultivate a more resilient emotional style?”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Journal of Psychophysiology


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