Patients with depression find it easier to abandon unattainable goals, psychological study at the University of Jena shows.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” This saying is drummed into us from a young age, when our tower of building blocks keeps collapsing or we just can’t get the hang of riding a bicycle. Perseverance is praised and we are told that only with the right motivation will we be able to achieve the aims we have set ourselves.

“That may hold true in many areas of life, such as work, sport or the family,” says Prof. Klaus Rothermund of Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany). But an over-ambitious life plan can also prove to be a trap, adds the Professor of General Psychology. This is the case when the goals pursued are unattainable.

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“Some people develop depression as a result of such futile efforts,” says Rothermund. The fact that the goal remains unattainably distant, however hard a person tries, makes them experience helplessness and suffer from a loss of control. However, this must not inevitably be a psychological dead-end. Depression can actually create opportunities for sufferers, as Psychology student Katharina Koppe and Prof. Rothermund have now demonstrated in a study. In the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry they show that patients with depression are significantly more successful than healthy individuals at letting go of unattainable goals.

Read the full article here.