Dr Rebecca Elliott is a senior researcher in cognitive neuroscience and has been focusing her research on why some people are more resilient to chronic stress and adverse life events than others. Essentially is there something in their neurological make up that means they do not get depressed .
The Dr Elliott argued in a report for the BBC that everyone is somewhere on a scale going from the very susceptible people who in response to very little stress or sometimes none at all will be diagnosed with mental illnesses. Conversely, at the other end of the scale people have a greater toughness towards adversity and subsequently are less likely to suffer from conditions such as depression and anxiety despite the presence of highly stressful life events such as losing a job, the death of a close relative or spouse or going through a divorce.
Drawing from previous research on resilience to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) there are a number of functions in the brain that have been examined in an attempt to understand why some people are more resilient to mental illness and others are not. Cognitive flexibility is one such function that may provide answers it is a person’s aptitude to manipulate thought processes in response to different situations as well as the amount of attention paid to happy as opposed to sad memories.
The research is in relatively early stages and researchers are still making assumptions to guide their studies but believe that once it is understood why some people are more resilient they can then potentially help people who are more vulnerable to mental illnesses.