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January 25, 2021
Chaotic things tend to make people anxious and/or depressed, which may compromise their ability to make sound decisions. But at the same time, people can draw courage from their previous successes or achievements to deal with anxiety and depression resulting from difficult times like COVID-19 in the current scenario. A new study from University of California – Berkeley suggested that while people whose symptoms intersect with both anxiety and depression find it difficult to adjust to changes when performing a computerized task that simulated a volatile or rapidly changing environment, people with mild symptoms of anxiety and depression develop an inherent ability to adjust to changing conditions based on the actions they had previously taken to achieve the best available outcomes.
“When everything keeps changing rapidly, and you get a bad outcome from a decision you make, you might fixate on what you did wrong, which is often the case with clinically anxious or depressed people,” said study senior author Sonia Bishop, a professor of neuroscience at UC Berkeley.
That doesn’t mean people battling clinical anxiety and depression are left with no alternative expect for reducing to a life full of bad decisions as individualized treatments, such as cognitive behavior therapy can be effecting in improving both decision-making skills and confidence by focusing on past successes, instead of failures, she added.
The study is an extension to Bishop’s 2015 study, which found that people with high levels of anxiety made more mistakes when tasked with making decisions during computerized assignments that simulated both stable and rapidly changing environments. Conversely, non-anxious study participants quickly adjusted to the changing patterns in the task.
For this latest study, Bishop and her team looked at whether people with depression would also struggle to make sound decisions in volatile environments and whether this would hold true when challenged with different versions of the task.
“We wanted to see if this weakness was unique to people with anxiety, or if it also presented in people with depression, which often goes hand in hand with anxiety,” Bishop concluded.