Self-Perception, Depression and Social Phobia
How does the way you see yourself affect your mental well-being? According to a study by Timothy J. Strauman, self-perception is an important factor in your overall happiness. Strauman found that people who have depression are much more dissatisfied with themselves than other people. Essentially, depressed people are the most displeased when they compare what they want to be (their “ideal self”) to what they are in reality (their “actual self”).
The study showed that the participants with depression had higher expectations for themselves that they felt unable to live up to. The participants with social phobia and the healthy participants were less unhappy with themselves, in general.
Compared to health individuals, social phobics in the study were also shown to be highly emotionally affected by comparisons between their expectations for themselves and reality.
How Perspective Contributes to Depression and Social Phobia
Another study from 2006 explores the connection between one’s ability to recognize various emotions and one’s state of mental health. It has been found across cultures that people can recognize some emotions better than others; for example, most people in different cultures can readily identify an angry or disgusted facial expression.
Interestingly enough, the researchers found that the participants who were diagnosed with depression were the best at identifying sadness. They were better than social phobics and healthy people at recognizing sadness in someone’s face.
The depressed people in the study also had the most difficulty identifying a happy expression.
The social phobics were found to be the best at identifying an angry expression. This is what you would expect when you consider the characteristic symptoms of social phobia; social phobics are keenly aware of scrutiny by other people and are highly sensitive to others’ displeasure. People who have social phobia are usually more attuned to subtle changes in someone else’s face that can indicate dislike, disapproval or disdain.
A third study from 2004 also examines the sensitivity of depressed and socially phobic people to emotional cues in the environment.
The participants who had major depression were shown to be the most responsive to things related to sadness. The depressed participants in the study similarly paid more attention to sad faces and were the least likely (compared to social phobics and healthy individuals) to focus on or recognize an expression of happiness.
Applying Your Knowledge
If you want to know how you can use the information gathered in the aforementioned studies, read the next and final article in this series.