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Depression and negative thinking in teenagers

Article on research carried out by the University of Reading to see if negative thinking is a key feature of depression in teenagers.
© University of Reading

Most research about depression has been carried out with adults. Because teenagers are obviously not the same as adults, the University of Reading has carried out research to see if negative thinking is a key feature of depression in teenagers.

Hundreds of teenagers have helped us with our research, and we’ve found that depressed teenagers seem to think just like depressed adults. An ambiguous situation is seen as negative rather than a positive or neutral. Depressed teenagers see the world differently from teenagers who aren’t depressed, just as depressed adults see the world differently from non-depressed adults. If you’d like to find out more about this research, you can read ‘Interpretation bias and depression in adolescents’ which can be found at the bottom of this Step.

We’ve also found that depressed teenagers have specific difficulties in their thinking abilities, particularly with an important area of thinking called ‘working memory’. Working memory helps us with a lot of everyday problems including mathematics, problem solving, following instructions and remembering things like telephone numbers.

So what does this mean for teenagers who are depressed? What situations do they face most days, which aren’t clear? Share your thoughts below.

© University of Reading
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Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People

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