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Thought some of you would enjoy this http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/magazine/28depression-t.html?pagewanted=1&em
I'd question that depression is an evolutionary mistake, if we're going to see depression in those terms. Surely it'd just be a means of stopping the 'weak' from reproducing?
I dunno, it's sunny outside. Lalalalala.
I AIN'T GOT, NO ONE ELSE!
DEPRESSIONS, GONNA KILL ME!
The persistence of this affliction — and the fact that it seemed to be heritable — posed a serious challenge to Darwin’s new evolutionary theory. If depression was a disorder, then evolution had made a tragic mistake, allowing an illness that impedes reproduction — it leads people to stop having sex and consider suicide — to spread throughout the population. For some unknown reason, the modern human mind is tilted toward sadness and, as we’ve now come to think, needs drugs to rescue itself.
The alternative, of course, is that depression has a secret purpose and our medical interventions are making a bad situation even worse. Like a fever that helps the immune system fight off infection — increased body temperature sends white blood cells into overdrive — depression might be an unpleasant yet adaptive response to affliction. Maybe Darwin was right. We suffer — we suffer terribly — but we don’t suffer in vain.
“I started thinking about how, even if you are depressed for a few months, the depression might be worth it if it helps you better understand social relationships,” Andrews says. “Maybe you realize you need to be less rigid or more loving. Those are insights that can come out of depression, and they can be very valuable.”
This radical idea — the scientists were suggesting that depressive disorder came with a net mental benefit — has a long intellectual history. Aristotle was there first, stating in the fourth century B.C. “that all men who have attained excellence in philosophy, in poetry, in art and in politics, even Socrates and Plato, had a melancholic habitus; indeed some suffered even from melancholic disease.”
But Andrews and Thomson weren’t interested in ancient aphorisms or poetic apologias. Their daunting challenge was to show how rumination might lead to improved outcomes, especially when it comes to solving life’s most difficult dilemmas. Their first speculations focused on the core features of depression, like the inability of depressed subjects to experience pleasure or their lack of interest in food, sex and social interactions. According to Andrews and Thomson, these awful symptoms came with a productive side effect, because they reduced the possibility of becoming distracted from the pressing problem.
When people rely on working memory — and it doesn’t matter if they’re doing long division or contemplating a relationship gone wrong — they tend to think in a more deliberate fashion, breaking down their complex problems into their simpler parts.
The bad news is that this deliberate thought process is slow, tiresome and prone to distraction; the prefrontal cortex soon grows exhausted and gives out.
If depression didn’t exist — if we didn’t react to stress and trauma with endless ruminations — then we would be less likely to solve our predicaments. Wisdom isn’t cheap, and we pay for it with pain.
While the analytic-rumination hypothesis might explain those patients reacting to an “acute stressor,” it can’t account for those whose suffering has no discernible cause or whose sadness refuses to lift for years at a time. “To say that depression can be useful doesn’t mean it’s always going to be useful,” Thomson says. “Sometimes, the symptoms can spiral out of control. The problem, though, is that as a society, we’ve come to see depression as something that must always be avoided or medicated away. We’ve been so eager to remove the stigma from depression that we’ve ended up stigmatizing sadness.”
“What you’re trying to do is speed along the rumination process,” Thomson says. “Once you show people the dilemma they need to solve, they almost always start feeling better.” He cites as evidence a recent study that found “expressive writing” — asking depressed subjects to write essays about their feelings — led to significantly shorter depressive episodes. The reason, Thomson suggests, is that writing is a form of thinking, which enhances our natural problem-solving abilities.
Quick summary: The brain goes around in circles, mulling things over, which might not be a totally bad thing if it allows you to address some dificult isseus that are causing your depression.
Quicker summary: You gotta know the lows to appreciate the highs.
I'm obviously massively paraphraing stuff here and might be missing the point somewhat, but...
... at the end of the article (after the above out-takes) there's a run-down of some the experiments relating to these theories. And I probably have some issues with 'em.
A prime problem with some of 'em (as far as I can see, as a non-medically trained person) would be that the subjects of their experiments are not necessarily depressed. They're just temporarily induced into a sad/unhappy mindset.
More broadly, I'd say that the theory doesn't necessarily sit very well with some of the traits of depression that I've seen.
Just some thoughts.
i'm mainly using TheWza's summary as there is no way my concentration will last the entirety of that article.
i've been thinking along the same lines recently, actually. I've been suffering from anxiety and depression for a while now and have been prescribed various drugs. last month, after complaining for about 6 months about how i couldn't sleep, my prescription was doubled. i can sleep fairly well now. but i'm almost completely numb to everything. i used to be the sort of person who'd get major highs and major lows, until the lows became the norm. now, since my medication has been upped, there's almost nothing. i can't get excited about anything, i can't cry about anything. it's wiped my emotional brain clean enough so's i can do stuff and get on with life - but it's way too much. there's no reason to get out of bed: assignments have lost their urgency, friends just sort of exist on the other side of town, i'm not going to starve, etcetcetc.
it's been such a time now that i'd quite like to just pack in the prescription and start feeling again; at least that desperate sadness would make me feel as though i'm achieving something by hanging on each day, and i might even start to feel actually happy about things.
ahh, i dno. this is long. my main point is... i'm not convinced that drugs are a satisfactory answer to depression. let's help each other through. prescriptions can never take the place of a hug and a cup of tea.
but the thing about the prescription "wiping [your] emotional brain clean enough so's [you] can do stuff and get on with life" resonates somewhat.
And I can see how the desire to move away from the drugs in order to 'feel again' could appeal.
But I'm not 100% convinced by the theory contained in the article.
What did sound good was the idea of writing stuff down. That's never gonna do any harm. GS3 (or was it Bamnan) asked about writing an essay (or was it a letter) to someone that was never to be sent. He got fairly well driven out of town by a bunch of DiS-folk for coming out with such a notion, which was a shame. Cos it's something I've done a couple of times in the past, and it's helped to clarify things a bit and bring them into focus. Committing your feelings down into coherent prose forces the mind to concentrate on the salient issues and forces the fuzzy stuff around the edges to take a back seat.
But, as I say, I've never been 'properly depressed' as such. (But who knows? These things are surely on a sliding scale rather than simly an on-off thing.) Just on the usual downers that everyone goes through from time to time. So what do I know?
That's my rambling two-penneth, anyways.
Good way of putting it.
The anxiety and negative thoughts that gradually mount up and accumulate to evolve into depression can often be dealt with rationally and working through depression through counselling or some other form of therapy brings this to light because there is a provision of more rational, clear and educated thinking brought to light.
Then, post-depression, a logical chain of though will assist the sufferer to cope better with these anxieties and they can resist the urge to slip back into the rut of depression.
That's my 2 cents.
Because I think it's a lot like the flu - people say they've got it, but usually they're just feeling blue for an unusually long period of time. Real, hardcore depression isn't remotely useful. It's fucking horrible.
Cos the guy who came up with the theory isn't talking about people who are just a bit down:
" “I tend to get the real hard cases,” Thomson told me recently. “A lot of the people I see have already tried multiple treatments. They arrive without much hope.” On one of the days I spent with Thomson earlier this winter, he checked his phone constantly for e-mail updates. A patient of his on “welfare watch” who was required to check in with him regularly had not done so, and Thomson was worried"
(but as I've said, I find it hard to believe depression is an on/off thing and there's gotta be some sort of sliding scale so where the dline is drawn has surely gotta be up for debate)
My concern was that the experiments mentioned at the end of the article seemed to be talking about monitoring peoples' responses when they were 'made to feel a bit sad'. Which seemed to be somewhat detatched from the main thrust of the otherwise interesting article.
evolution is about animals, we arent animals anymore, at somepoint we developed to language and then culture (probably as a complete byproduct of something else) and now are behviour is alot less conected with evolved behaviours, there probably is a basic human nature but culture can supress/emphasise/overwright different aspects of it. Im sure sadness holds a function that is useful for a human animal (probably something to do with learning, protecting avoiding loss etc) and for some reason this capcity to feel bad is activated by something about living in our culture. Also even if depression did exist in humans when they were animals it may not have been incompatible with evolution, maybe its wanting to avoid feeling bad that drives creatures to seek partners etc so its a motivational thing (and the ones that fail are left with the lingering misery) and it may not be just about getting a partner (as people in couples can get depressed)as the evolutionary drive is to be as succesful as possible in order to be attractive and have kids, so maybe just failure to succeed in numerous areas results in people feeling bad to motivate people to succeed (again leaving the unfortunate who can't stuck with the bad feelings as an unintended consequence). Plus all this presumes that depression exists, that there is something wrong with some individuals that makes them feel bad for no reason, which i'd dispute because their are plenty of reasons to feel sad all the time in the world we live in it doesnt mean there is anything wrong with a person for feeling that