According to a new article published in the September issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, numerous types of depression might be caused by prejudice against one’s self or others.

William Cox of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his colleagues suggest that depression and prejudice are fundamentally linked to one another. Basically, Cox and colleagues are saying that “the kinds of stereotypes about others that lead to prejudice and the kinds of schemas about the self that lead to depression are fundamentally similar. Among many features that they have in common, stereotypes of prejudice and schemas of depression are typically well-rehearsed, automatic and difficult to change.”

For example, Cox and colleagues believe that a person’s self-loathing may contribute to their outward opinions of other people (ie., I hate that I’m gay, therefore I hate gay people), and in the end that thinking causes their personal depression as well as causing depression in the targets of their prejudices.

According to an online article on Sciencedaily, the researchers state that the focus of their theory is on cases of depression that are driven primarily by the negative thoughts that people have about themselves or that others have about them and does not address “depressions caused by neurochemical, genetic, or inflammatory processes.” Understanding that many people with depression are not “just” depressed — they may have prejudice against themselves that causes their depression — has powerful theoretical implications for treatment.

Cox and colleagues are hoping that understanding this link could be the key to helping some patients treat their depression. For now, though, depression is often treated with antidepressant medications like Paxil and Effexor. Both Paxil and Effexor have been linked to serious side effects including violent thoughts and behavior and birth defects in babies born to mothers who take the drugs while pregnant. Some of those birth defects linked to Paxil and Effexor include PPHN, oral clefts, cleft palate, neural tube defects and heart, lung and brain defects. While this theory by Cox and colleagues doesn’t have all the answers, it gives some people reason to pause.