Why Everyone Sounds The Same When You’re Depressed

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Depression makes it harder to do pretty much everything. And, new research explains that depression may also make it more difficult to tell voices apart, Motherboard reports. In the study, which will be presented this week at the 169th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, researchers had participants (with and without elevated symptoms of depression) listen to voice recordings and write down what they heard. The voices were either neutral or they portrayed various emotions like fear, anger, happiness, or sadness. But, in an added twist, the recordings also had different types of background noise. Each participant heard 10 sentences of each voice type. The results showed that depressed participants had a much harder time accurately reproducing the sentences than those who weren't depressed. But, that was true only if the background noise was very similar to that of the voice, like trying to listen to someone amidst a bunch of other conversations at a loud cocktail party. Those who were depressed didn't tend to have problems with other types of unrelated noise, such as traffic on the street. It's no secret that depression changes the way you perceive the world, but sometimes that happens in unexpected ways like this. Other research suggests that people with depression feel time passes more slowly, exacerbating a tendency to ruminate. So, as other studies suggest, a radical change in perception could be just the thing to make the world feel normal again.

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