Intensified emotion perception in depression: Differences in physiological arousal and subjective perceptions
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CitationWenzler S. Hagen M. Tarvainen MP. Hilke M. Ghirmai N. Huthmacher A-C. Trettin M. van Dick R. Reif A. Oertel-Knöchel V. (2017). Intensified emotion perception in depression: Differences in physiological arousal and subjective perceptions. PSYCHIATRY RESEARCH, 253, 303-310. 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.03.040.
People suffering from depression perceive themselves and their surroundings as more negative than healthy ones. An explanation might be that depressed individuals experience negative information as more stressful than non-depressed subjects and, consequently, respond in an amplified manner on a subjective and physiological level. To test this proposition, we presented 41 patients with recurrent depressive episodes and 42 controls with stimuli from the International Affective Picture System split into three valence categories while different parameters of physiological arousal (e.g., heart rate variability) and subjective perceptions of valence and arousal were assessed. Furthermore, we examined social skills and emotional competence. Results regarding physiological arousal revealed an elevated skin temperature and a more accentuated respiratory frequency in depressed subjects. Furthermore, depressed subjects rated the stimuli as more negative and arousing, which was associated with reduced social and emotional competence. Variation in antidepressant medication, menstrual cycle and other factors that have an impact on HRV are a potential bias. Our findings suggest an intensified perception of negative emotion in depressed individuals as compared to controls that manifests itself in an increased physiological arousal as well as on a subjective level. This intensified emotion perception is further associated with deficits in social and emotional competence.