Is Depression Contagious?

Is depression contagious among friendsFor years scientists have been researching depression in college students due to the amount of stress experienced by a normal college bound teen. It was Notre Dame University that began to do research on “If depression is spread and caught by college roommates.” This study looked at something that was called cognitive vulnerability (CV) and depression. This study was designed to answer the question: Is depression contagious?

CV is a phrase that describes the person’s risk to becoming depressed. The college students who were most at risk were those that had suffered an illness, were facing their parent’s divorce, or simply moving away from home to college. The focus of the Notre Dame study was on a CV called psychological rumination. This is the tendency to reflect on their behaviors and their negative emotions and feeling. This type of reflection is compulsive and may even be described as obsessive. A person who tends to ruminate often has a bigger chance of becoming clinically depressed when they move away from home and go to college.

The Notre Dame study then looked at roommates on campus. One person who did not have any signs of CV or rumination was paired with a person that had significant signs of CV and rumination. The roommates were observed over a period of time and then compared to the beginning CV assessment data. Over time the results indicated that both roommates CV concerns would increase over time. The roommate that was already showing signs of CV would get worse and the roommate not showing signs of CV would then begin to.

Is Depression Contagious? Maybe

Let’s look at the question “Is Depression Contagious?”. Many people believe that depression is just something that you either have or don’t have, yet this is not true. The study of CV looks into the risk factors of becoming clinically depressed and researchers have come to the conclusion that depression or CV can in fact be “caught”. Moving away from home and being thrown into college life is enough for some college bound teens to become depressed. This depression can then be spread to their roommates.

This type of thinking is only logical. If you continue to spend time with a person that is depressed it is only logical that you too will begin to feel the creeping sensation of self doubt and depression. Although these statistics are true it is also true that someone with low CV will positively influence the roommate with higher CV. The roommate that is not showing CV will have to feel very confident in themselves in order to positively influence the other.

Is Depression Contagious Because of Adrenal Fatigue?

Inflammation has been shown to be at least a contributor to depression. Especially inflammation in the gut. When the body falls under severe and continuing stress, the natural response, activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis increases. This puts so much pressure on the adrenal glands to continue secreting cortisol to fight the effects of stress that they soon reach a state of exhaustion. Too little cortisol is then available for the body to fight stress, leading to an increase in inflammation.

Is depression contagious and isolationUnder the comprehensive perspective of the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) model of stress, the body’s systems interact to deal with stress. In this model, the inflammatory response and the neuro-affective response work to handle stress related depression that likely results from problems in the gut system. Typically, cells in the gut are held tightly together to prevent leakage. Stress can lead to leakage that increases inflammation that then increases depression. Toxins that trigger inflammation also trigger depression.

Leaving home and entering the college environment can be stressful enough to begin the process of stress related depression. Becoming free from parental supervision and rules would seem to be a stimulus for increasing self-reliance and self-confidence. However, in some adolescents, the reverse is the result. Making their own decisions, coming under increasing peer influence, and the pressure of college work lead to significant stress in these teens.

The longer these teens labor under stressful conditions, the more their bodies respond to the stressors. This sets in motion the cycle of stress leading to depression. This process is more likely to occur in students who are cognitively vulnerable. This vulnerability may have begun early in life and be a result of poor nutrition. Add in the effect of peer influence in areas like alcohol and/or drug use, and the probability of depression increases greatly.


Is depression contagious among friends


  • Tasha says:

    how can i tell if its depression or AFS? I have seen my doctors, antidepressants just make my symptoms much worse.

    • Dr.Lam says:

      There can be overlap, such as fatigue, socially withdrawn, etc. If you dig deeper, you can see a distinct clinical presentation. AFS usually has metabolic issues ,such as hypoglcymia, and other issues that you dont find in depression. If in doubt, see a professional on both areas of specialty and you will know more.