PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If you tend to feel intense guilt over things that happened in your past – and replay them over and over in your mind – you might want to read this.

A new study has shown connections between “pathological guilt” and depression.

Researchers from the University of Washington St. Louis say they studied pre-schoolers who had been diagnosed with depression and found that a key brain region, called the right anterior insula, was smaller in the children with depression than in those without.

The study also found that the size of the insula might predict future bouts of depression, and thus, provide an “anatomical marker” that helps identify those at risk of developing depression. But they also say their findings are not surprising, since major feelings of guilt can be both a predictor and an effect of depression.

“A child with pathological guilt can walk into a room and see a broken lamp, for example, and even if the child didn’t break it, he or she will start apologizing,” lead author Andrew C. Belden, PhD., explained on the school’s website. “Even after being told he or she is not at fault, the child will continue to apologize and feel bad.”

Researchers say early experiences that spark excessive guilt in some young children might put them on the path towards developing depression, anxiety, OCD and other disorders.

The research is published in the November 12th issue of JAMA Psychiatry.

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