Depression Changes Perception of Time
Psychologists have explored how depression affects a person’s sense of time. In a new meta-study, people with depression were found to perceive time as passing more slowly.
The researchers analysed the results of 16 relevant studies which included 433 depressed people and 485 without depression. In these studies, participants were asked to estimate the duration of periods of time. For example, they might have been asked to guess the length of a film or press a button after a certain number of seconds. They found that, while those with depression are entirely capable of accurately judging a duration of time, they tend to feel like it is passing more slowly.
“We found strong indicators that in depressed individuals the subjective feeling of the passage of time differs from the ability to assess the actual duration of external events,” says Dr Daniel Oberfeld-Twistel of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.
The psychologists pointed out that perception of time is always highly subjective and will differ depending on the situation. Many feel time passing more slowly when they are waiting for something or moving quickly when a deadline approaches. The difference with depressed people is that they will perceive any length of time to pass more slowly than their non-depressed counterparts.
“Psychiatrists and psychologists in hospitals and private practices repeatedly report that depressed patients feel that time only creeps forward slowly or is passing in slow motion,” says Dr Oberfeld-Twistel. “The results of our analysis confirm that this is indeed the case.”
He adds that further research is needed to clearly differentiate between the subjective perception of the passage of time and a person’s ability to estimate precisely defined lengths of time.