Personality Traits May Mask Depression

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A new research at the University of Rochester Medical Center discovered that personality can affect mood history and symptoms and can cause missed diagnoses of depression.

Friends and family members of a person who is highly outgoing and fun-loving and who is likely to experience happiness and excitement, for example, often miss the signs that indicate the person is depressed.

“When a person who has enjoyed socializing and whose mood normally is positive becomes depressed, friends and family often don’t recognize it. Depression is inconsistent with the expectations that people have,” said Paul R. Duberstein, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Missed diagnoses and “false negatives” can have grave consequences for patients with depression or mood disorders, the researchers stated.

The current research was based on the study that included 191 primary care patients aged 60 or older from the Rochester, N.Y., area and their friends and family members. Researchers felt that seniors tend to talk about their health concerns with friends and family members, who often accompany them on visits to physicians. Information provided by friends and family members can help identify at-risk individuals.

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When the research began, researchers hypothesized that friends and family would miss depression in a person who is introverted, “But our research showed the opposite to be true,” Duberstein said. “We found the signs of depression were more likely to be missed in people with an outgoing, extraverted personality.”

Not surprisingly, the researchers discovered that most friends and family missed signs of depression in a person characterized as “agreeable,” someone who is more trusting and more altruistic or who might be considered a conformist.

“It is important for people to understand that people who are highly extraverted and highly agreeable can become depressed and that the signs of depression for these people are more likely to be missed or detected by friends and family,” Duberstein said. “Don’t assume that because someone is outgoing or agreeable that they are not vulnerable to becoming depressed.”

Physicians should take the time and attempt in their busy schedules to be vigilant when interpreting reports from friends and family members of their extraverted or agreeable patients, the researchers stated.

Personality may mask depression symptoms so it is important to try to understand and improve the ability of friends and family to help track and identify depression because it could help people receive the appropriate services for depressed and improve the quality of treatment.

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