Why Rejection Hurts More When You’re Depressed


Do you find it hard to just "get over it" when a sibling criticizes your caregiving abilities? How about when your spouse snaps at you after you had to re-schedule your date night for the third time in a row so you could look after mom?

If you answered "yes" to either of these questions, you might be grappling with depression.

Research has shown that people who are clinically depressed tend to be more easily offended and have a hard time letting go of negative social interactions. Now, scientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Michigan Medical School and Stony Brook University believe they know why.

How the brain helps you deal with pain

As it turns out, that the brains of people who suffer from untreated depression don't respond as well to pain (both physical and emotional), when compared to those without the condition.

"Every day we experience positive and negative social interactions," says lead study author David Hsu, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Stony Brook School of Medicine in a press release. "Our findings suggest that a depressed person's ability to regulate emotions during these interactions is compromised…This may be one reason for depression's tendency to linger or return, especially in a negative social environment."

It all comes down to the opioid system—a group of interconnected neurons that produce three key types of pain-relieving opioids: dynorphins, beta-endorphin and the met-and leu-enkephalins. When a person experiences physical or emotional duress, the opioid system regulates the body's pain response by releasing these natural painkillers.

The opioid system in depressed people simply doesn't respond as strongly as it does in non-depressed people.

When researchers conducted brain scans on individuals who'd been subjected to social rejection during a fictitious online dating scenario, they found that the opioid systems of non-depressed individuals released larger quantities of feel-good chemicals to combat the ensuing emotional pain than the brains of those who were depressed.

Interestingly, a similar thing happened when study participants encountered reciprocal interest from their would-be beaus. Non-depressed individuals experienced a more prolonged natural high than those with depression—again, due to visible differences in the opioid system's response.

Hsu and his team believe their findings point to the existence of certain sub-types of depression, and will hopefully lead to more targeted and effective forms of treatment for people with mental condition.

Spotting and stopping depression

Clinical depression is a complex disorder that affects the lives of millions of men and women. Older adults and their caregivers are particularly prone to becoming depressed, due to the isolation and psychological stress that all too often accompany the aging process.

Common symptoms of depression include: insomnia, fatigue, feeling hopeless/worthless, changes in appetite, aches and pains that are resistant to treatment, irritability, anxiousness, trouble concentrating and lack of interest in hobbies.

Making efforts to stay socially engaged with friends and family, and taking a break from caregiving every once in a while are two key ways that family caregivers can fend off depression and prevent burnout.

However, for people with serious depression, more dramatic intervention may be required.

Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options available for people who are dealing with depression, from psychological counseling to prescription medication. If you suspect that you or someone you love is suffering from depression, seek the help of a mental health counselor or health care professional.

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When you are 'emotionally' tied to the person you are caring for and then 'emotionally' charged with sibling rivalries, etc. (many of which do not live near you, participate in the actual caregiving or decision making) it magnifies and compromises your emotions 10 fold. Then throw in spouses and children and friends into the mix... and, it's no wonder we get into a mental overload and then depression. The body (brain) can only process so much... and, (personally) I'm not sure counseling or medication is the answer (at least from my experience).
in the case of postponing your own dreams to help an elder near and during end of life , id say " depressed " , is only a side effect of being " distressed " . i dont suppose thats an earthshaking observation but thats the sequence of emotional conditions as i remember them .
Medication is never the answer, except as a temporary stopgap. Finding the right counselor can certainly help, if only to have a sympathetic listening ear, but the only way to regain emotional and mental stability is to remove oneself from the center of the maelstrom. Unfortunately, that is not possible for many who are sole round-the-clock caregivers.

I'm leaving Kamp Krazy in two weeks and another brother will take over with our mother's care. That's the good news. The bad news is that this brother has been the main problem with Mom's finances (with her as eternal enabler), and now that she needs him to deal with her affairs he does not act in a timely manner. (Lapsed insurance policies, late charges, utilities cut-offs and reconnection fees, etc.)

I am putting him on notice that I will no longer take two or three months out of my life, 3000 miles away from husband and personal responsibilities, to do damage control. (She spends some time at the home of another brother, who also has been stuck with crisis remediation and has dumped far too much of his money into helping her out of her self-made financial debacles.) I'll visit Mom and take care of her immediate needs, but I am no longer dealing with the avoidable screw-ups. I know that leaves my mother in a precarious position, but maybe it will force baby bro to !@#%ing grow up and take care of business!

It's hard to let go of those self-imposed reins, but if I don't do it I'll suffer and drag the rest of my family down with me. Yesterday I had a crying breakdown over a minor incident that should not have sent me over the edge. Had to hide in the bathroom until my eyes cleared up. My opioid system is obviously not working very well...