根据一项新研究，一旦人们有了抑郁症状，就很容易陷入一种模式，即通过反刍式思考（ruminative thinking）来使这种疾病恶化。其中一个关键问题是所谓的消极元认知（negative metacognitions）。
挪威科技大学（NTNU）心理学系教授、这项研究的主要导师Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair说：“元思维--或元认知--是我们对自己所想的想法的思考。”
Helse Bergen HF的心理学家和第一作者Helene Pedersen解释说：“对我们自己的思维有想法，而我们或多或少地意识到这一点是很常见的。”
"Meta-thinking-- or metacognition-- is how we think about what we think," said Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, a professor in the department of psychology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the lead mentor of the study.
Helene Pedersen, a psychologist and lead author of Helse Bergen HF, explained: "it is common for us to have ideas about our own thinking, and we are more or less aware of this."
The idea of our own thinking is not harmful in itself. Positive thoughts about our own thinking can lead us to reflect more often on the topics we want to reflect on, perhaps even more like it. But this can be a problem for some people.
The researchers recently published a new study on the subject in the journal BMC Psychiatry.
For example, negative metacognition can think that depressive meditation is a sign of injury, or we may think that our meditation is uncontrollable. For some people, this kind of ruminant thinking can lead to thoughts that are hard to get rid of. These thoughts can quickly lead to a self-reinforcing negative pattern.
"it's only a problem when we have a lot of such negative thoughts about our thinking, and we fall into an unfortunate mindset, which can be hard to stop," Pedersen said.
But Kennair offers encouragement. "We are not weak or damaged goods. Learn that you can actually control your worries, which can be done quickly through metacognitive therapy."
So fortunately, there are some ways to help people with depression.
Girls are more vulnerable.
Depressive symptoms and depression are common among young people. Girls have these symptoms more often than boys and have a more frequent diagnosis of depression.
A new NTNU survey included nearly 1200 people between the ages of 16 and 20. Girls and adult women scored higher in all aspects, including depressive symptoms. They also scored higher on positive metacognition, or thinking that rumination is helpful, and negative metacognition of their own thoughts. Generally speaking, girls and adult women think more ruminantly.
Here the researchers found significant gender differences. But the reason why some people fall into depression is the same for both men and women.
"We found that the main causes of persistent depressive symptoms are negative meta-thinking and meditation, which applies to both sexes, regardless of age," Kennair said.
Metacognitive therapy can help.
Getting better includes overcoming self-reinforcing patterns, ideas and actions, the researchers say.
Professor Kennair said: "We believe that metacognitive therapy can also be an effective treatment for depressive symptoms in young people."
Pedersen says metacognitive therapy focuses on changing the factors that sustain depression: depressed contemplation and negative thoughts about our own thinking.
"contemplation and negative metacognition can be both inducing and maintaining factors for depressive symptoms. Therefore, focusing on this may be useful in preventing depression, "says psychologist and co-author Ingrid Gr ø nn æ ss.
"this treatment allows us to help people who are already suffering from growing depressive symptoms and to prevent them from occurring in others," she said. "
Metacognitive therapy is a new form of treatment developed by Adrian Wells of the University of Manchester. Its main goal is to stop the negative thought process and change the metacognition of worry and ruminating.