If you tend to beat yourself up over every little perceived mistake or failure, you're may be at risk for becoming clinically depressed. A study led by Dr. Roland Zahn at the University of Manchester and published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatryfound that habitual self-blame and misplaced guilt are associated with major depression.
A news release sent out by the university quoted Dr. Zahn as saying: "For the first time, we chart the regions of the brain that interact to link detailed knowledge about socially appropriate behavior -- the anterior temporal lobe -- with feelings of guilt -- the subgenual region of the brain -- in people who are prone to depression." He went on to explain that in depressed patients, these regions have weaker connections than they do in emotionally healthy people.
"Interestingly, this 'decoupling' only occurs when people prone to depression feel guilty or blame themselves, but not when they feel angry or blame others," he said. "This could reflect a lack of access to details about what exactly was inappropriate about their behavior when feeling guilty, thereby extending guilt to things they are not responsible for and feeling guilty for everything."
The scholarly article is entitled "Guilt-Selective Functional Disconnection of Anterior Temporal and Subgenual Cortices in Major Depressive Disorder." In describing their discoveries, the researchers wrote that strong coupling of the key brain regions they studied allowed healthy people to differentiate "between specific qualities (eg, faultfinding and critical) of social behaviors (eg, 'I pointed to a typing error in one of my colleagues' e-mails') and thereby allowing us to make differentiated appraisals of behavior to protect us against overgeneralization of self-blame(eg, This means 'I am critical' rather than 'I am unlikable'). Social concepts (eg, stingy, clumsy, or unintellectual) are thus crucial ingredients for tackling patients' self-blaming overgeneralizations in therapy(eg, 'If I fail at sports matches, it means I am clumsy, but I still have other worthy qualities, such as being smart and caring)."
They further explained that those with a low risk for depression "blame themselves in a specific fashion . . . without damaging their self-worth or hating themselves (an overgeneralized form of guilt)." The authors concluded that "Proneness to overgeneralization of self-blame is a core part of cognitive vulnerability to major depressive disorder." Freud theorized exactly that years ago and this study appears to prove that he was right.