Depressive disorders alter our perception and processing of colors. This means, for example, that all shades appear less bright, so it is difficult to detect the contrast between black and white.
Science has shown that depression alters color perception. Hues change when we suffer from this mood disorder, as well as perceptions and perspectives.
We could say that when we are suffering, the world is grayer, that when we are trapped in anguish and despair, life in our eyes appears distorted and confused. It may sound metaphorical, but it has a kernel of truth.
This is what science says, revealing how contrast capacity in the retina varies when suffering from a depressive disorder. We can therefore infer that emotions have a profound impact on neurological structures.
A nuance we often appreciate in the artistic universe. Painters such as Edvard Munch, for example, left imprinted on their canvases brushstrokes permeated with malaise, suffering that turned into dark tones, such as deep blue, metallic gray, dark purple.
Why does depression alter color perception?
Many of us know the repercussions of depression on the mind and body. Fatigue, insomnia, apathy, hopelessness, bad mood, inability to feel enthusiasm or pleasure are some symptoms.
Perhaps, however, we don’t know that this mood disorder also affects how the brain processes visual information.
According to a study from the University of Helsinki, depression alters color perception in several ways; one involves the contrast between black and white.
This research, conducted by Dr. Viljami Salmela, found that depressed people have difficulty detecting the contrast between black and white. This means that when faced with a black and white image, they perceive only gray.
Major depression and lack of retinal stimulation
Not all depressions are the same. Some are milder, and in these cases, it is not common to experience visual changes. Specifically, visual alterations occur when suffering from major depression. The more severe the depressive state, the greater the visual changes will be.
Everything happens in the retina: the back of the eye formed by sensitive cells that transform light into nerve impulses that carry information to the brain.
Once received, the brain interprets what it sees and allows us to perceive and distinguish the reality around us.
Scholars claim that depression alters color perception because the retina does not function differently in depressed people. Specifically, hypoactivity has been detected in the cells that form the retina.
Interestingly, this does not occur in patients with unipolar depression, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder. Only people with major depression see life more in gray.
Feeling blue is a definition of a depressive state.
In the Anglo-Saxon world, expressions like blue Monday or feeling blue is common to describe a depressed, sad, and unmotivated state of mind. Here we present another possible explanation of why depression alters color perception.
The study conducted at the University of California by Dr. Allison Thorstenson shows us an interesting fact. People with major depression show an obvious difficulty distinguishing colors in the range of blue to yellow. But the same thing doesn’t happen with those contained in the red-green range.
According to experts, therefore, emotional experiences and color perception are closely related: colder and less intense tones are altered.
Depression alters color perception: watching low-contrast television.
The University of Freiburg, Germany, has also studied how depression alters our perception of colors. The information this study offers us couldn’t be more interesting.
According to Ludger Tebartz, author of this paper, depressed people see the world in a very similar way to when we lower the color contrast on our televisions or electronic device screens.
Depressed people perceive all tones but at a lower intensity and with altered contrast. All of these perceptual alterations as the person progresses through psychological treatment.
This world of emotional chiaroscuro has its physiological and neurological impact, it is true, but as one progresses through recovery and the therapy itself, the brain regains its functionality.
What is most striking about this link between depressive disorders and perceptual disorders is how a mental condition is capable of distorting everything around us. Fortunately, there are mechanisms and resources to get out of this scenario of darkness and gloom.