Researchers say that people who are depressed tend to recall more physical symptoms such as aches and pains than they actually experience.
The study from University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences indicates that depression and not neuroticism is the cause of such over-reporting.
AdvertisementDepressed people tend to ruminate over and exaggerate the bad.
"People who felt depressed made the most errors when asked to remember their physical symptoms," said lead researcher and psychologist Jerry Suls.
"They tended to exaggerate their experience," Suls added.
During the study, researchers looked at 109 participants, all female. They were asked to completed baseline surveys to assess their levels of neuroticism and depression.
Each day for three weeks, they reported whether they felt 15 common physical symptoms including aches and pains, gastrointestinal and upper-respiratory issues.
The study showed that people who scored higher in depression were more likely to overstate the frequency of their past symptoms.
"For 30 years, the hypothesis has been that neuroticism is behind inflated reports of symptoms. We're saying no - depression appears to be the big player," Suls said.
"We discovered that people high in neuroticism but low in depression are not likely to misremember symptoms.
"Depressed individuals and their physicians shouldn't discount common symptoms because they can indicate serious problems.
"However, since we now know that depressed individuals tend to over-remember the frequency of symptoms, it wouldn't hurt to encourage patients to write down their symptoms as they're happening. That way the patient and doctor have an accurate record of what has been going on, rather than relying on memory," Suls added.
The study appears in journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
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