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Depressed people aren’t good at goal-setting. Duh.

credit to bentbutnotbroken.org

credit to bentbutnotbroken.org

I really appreciate any scientific efforts to learn more about depression and how to help depressed people. Sometimes when I read about a study, though, I think the researchers could have saved themselves a lot of time and effort if they’d just checked in with me first. (Yes, I do understand the concept of scientific method – just allow me a bit of sarcasm/hyperbole here). Case in point: I just read about a study out of the University of Liverpool, which shows that depressed people have difficulty setting goals.

According to psychologist Dr. Joan Dickson, “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.” (www.psychcentral.com)


My husband’s combination of ADHD and depression makes accomplishing goals a herculean feat. Long ago he learned the coping skill of list making/goal setting, but left to his own devices his lists of tasks or goals to accomplish are wildly unrealistic. Given a free Saturday, his self-generated task list might look like this:
-clean garage
-wash all the vehicles
-do the taxes
-trim the trees in the back yard
-end world hunger

This is just barely an exaggeration. Take off the world hunger bit and it would be pretty representative of his version of a to-do list. Obviously no one could complete all this in one day, but the failure to do so would make him feel guilty and miserable.

In the last few weeks, one of the daily coping mechanisms we’ve been trying is to create a very do-able list of tasks each evening, one that fits his free time for the next day. These lists are helping him stay focused and shrug off some of the feelings of being overwhelmed, which are so prevalent due to his depression.

So maybe we should give ourselves a pat on the back for doing something right even before the Liverpool study hit the news?



2 Responses

  1. Goes back to how hard it is to show evidence of a mental illness, or something gone a little awry. Only those who have seen the good times will know the difference. There are people who are fine but are goalless, disorganized, and have little motivation.

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