On the flip side, when someone they are interested in likes them back, depressed people do feel relatively better - but only momentarily.
For the study, the team focused on the mu-opioid receptor system in the brain - the same system that they have studied for years in relation to response to physical pain. During physical pain, our brains release opioids to dampen pain signals.
The findings were made in depressed and non-depressed people using specialised brain-scanning technology and a simulated online dating scenario. "The research sheds new light on how the brain's pain-response mechanism, called the opioid system, differs in people with depression," the authors wrote. Further research could lead to a better understanding of how to boost the opioid response in depressed individuals to reduce the exaggerated effect of social stress, and to increase the benefits of positive social interactions, the team concluded. The study appeared in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.