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Learned Helplessness

But what if no matter what a person does, she truly feels she can 't change her situation? That person develops what is called "learned helplessness". These traits include:



  • lack of motivation or activity
  • sadness & listlessness
  • lack of hostility when hostility is warranted
  • cognitive problems
  • depression

    If the unchangeable situation continues, the person will begin to make attributions that everything is out of his or her control including:

    • what happens to them is their fault (internal)
    • they can never change things (global)
    • their difficulties will continue (stable)

    Then, the helplessness becomes a self fulfilling prophecy because they give up. Learned helplessness has been used to explain the symptoms and high rates of depression found in people who have a lot of stress and very few ways to control it.


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