Depression: An Adaptive Evolutionary Trait?

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posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 08:40 AM
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A neurochemical in the brain called "serotonin" makes us happy. Serotonin uses a "docking port" called the "5HT1A receptor." This "5HT1A receptor" has not really changed over evolutionary time, in humans or in rats. Why not? Because depression is adaptive and results in fitter individuals, say postdoctoral fellow Paul Andrews of Virginia Commonwealth University and psychiatrist J. Anderson Thomson Jr. of the University of Virginia in the journal Psychological Review.




In evolution-speak, depression is an "adaptation," ...it evolved because it made individuals who experienced it fitter, under natural selection, than individuals who did not experience it.

...a molecule in the brain called the 5HT1A receptor... serves as a docking port for the neurochemical serotonin... natural selection did not mess with the receptor much. ...(because) tinkering with it evolutionarily would produce more harm than good.




How can depression be good? How can it make us "more fit"?

Because it changes our behavior in ways that allow us to focus exclusively on the problem at hand. Then it alters our thinking to be more focused, deliberative and analytical - to "problem-solve" and change our reality.



...depression alters thinking and behavior in beneficial ways. For instance:

*People in the grip of depression tend to ruminate, to turn an issue over and over in the mind. ...this way of thinking, ...is "often highly analytical." ...producing solutions to what tipped the person into depression in the first place, not to mention "Eureka!" moments such as discovering fire.

*Depression tends to focus thinking. That 5HT1A receptor, it turns out, also supplies neurons with fuel, allowing them to fire without flagging. That includes neurons in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which have to fire continuously to keep the mind from wandering. (It's an attention circuit.) Focused thinking, like analytical thinking, might help someone overcome depression.

*Depression tends to make sufferers seek isolation, and keeps them from deriving pleasure from sex, food, or life itself. ...it may also be adaptive: these behaviors foster the kind of focused and deliberative thinking that might solve the problem that triggered the depression in the first place.




Depression is considered an illness, and therapies focus on "curing" depression to make people "happy" again. Antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil target serotonin, and bump its production in the brain.

But is it really a good idea to try and "cure" depression? If depression is adaptive, and so, a positive evolutionary force, then shouldn't doctors try to encourage depressive thinking?

Andrews and Thompson think so.



"Therapies should try to encourage depressive rumination rather than try to stop it, and they should focus on trying to help people solve the problems that trigger their bouts of depression,"...




More to the point:



...depression is present in the species, and in individuals, for a purpose, and we're playing with fire if we try to eradicate it.




What would happen if everyone stopped searching for "happiness at any cost by any means"? If everyone stopped self-medicating with painkillers, alcohol and recreational drugs? If doctors stopped bowing to Big Pharma and prescribing happy pills?

Would people start thinking again? And problem solving? Might thinking people change the world?

What would happen if nobody's urine contained Prozac, Zoloft or Paxil or any other antidepressant, and our world's water wasn't medically polluted any more, and our world's wildlife wasn't sucking up happy drugs along with us humans?

Would the animals get pissed? Fight back? Would there be a wildlife revolution? To preserve habitat? Quality of life? To end extinction?



...But depression really can lead to suicide and so, threatens life, not just quality of life. Is there a middle ground here? Is there merit to the idea that depression is adaptive - a positive evolutionary trait?




NEWS SOURCE: The Upside of Feeling Down. Depression might be evolution's way of fixing what ails us

Also see: Dream Subliminals




posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 09:53 AM
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I think the major problem is that mild intermittent low mood is being viewed as pathological. Serious chronic depression is what might need some sort of treatment, that is pathological and disruptive.

I wouldn't solely blame it on pharma, though. People also have issues in accepting the whole range of emotions that makes them human. There's also an industry of self-help which help foster this pathologising (if that's a word) of a range of normal human feelings and thoughts.

It is right it should be so:
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
Auguries of innocence William Blake

Nice thread, anyway, sofi.


[edit on 11-11-2009 by melatonin]



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 10:47 AM
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reply to post by melatonin
 




Serious chronic depression is what might need some sort of treatment, that is pathological and disruptive.


This is exactly what I was thinking. Though I stopped by PubMed to look up a few abstracts to see if there was any serious contention to the idea floating around. Evolutionary Psych has had issues with acceptance being fairly soft science already, and it's prone to self-help schmucks and honest mistakes constructing "just so" explanations for human behaviors.

I wanted to check her credibility as well. The title of her book "Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves" and associations with Buddhism and the Dali Lama threw up some red flags for me. Though I guess it's more about neuroplasticity than fru-fru brain training advice according to the Amazon reviews.

Anyhow, in one of the papers, Lewis Wolpert described clinical depression colloquially as "Sadness gone malignant".




Sadness is a key emotion in relation to depression as it is the emotion most closely linked to depression. Sadness is a universal emotion, and has a common facial expression associated with it that is recognised in many different cultures [2]. Sadness is usually caused by loss of some sort, from a person to money. Sadness is closely linked to a loss of attachment to a child or to a partner, relative or close friend [3]. Attachment is adaptive from an evolutionary viewpoint, particularly in relation to the bond between mother and child, and loss of this attachment, even briefly, can cause sadness in young children and causes them to search for the parent. Attachment is also important for couples and its loss promotes sadness and the search for the partner. Sadness can also result from other losses, ranging from money to lack of success at work, and its biological and evolutionary function is to motivate the individual to recover what has been lost. Sadness drives us to restore attachment and is from an evolutionary point of view an important adaptive emotion. The sadness caused by bereavement is the cost of having been attached, and it may also act as a social signal that is a plea for sympathy


However, he also goes on to warn that determining the cause of the depression is as important as the diagnosis of depression itself. Because depression can be triggered by purely biological mechanisms as well, and misidentification of the cause would therefore promote unnecessarily prolonged or inappropriate medication.



However it is important to realise the complexity of the emotion, as purely biological factors can trigger depression. Excess cortisol can be a cause [5], as can components of the immune system. If patients are given alpha interferon for hepatitis, they are give an antidepressant at the same time to stop them getting depressed [6]. Of even greater significance is the genetic component, which can be quite high as heritability is around 50% [7].


Source


I also wonder if the stigma of being "quacks" and "shrinks" historically has influenced the bias of some psychologists over the last few decades to over-diagnose and unnecessarily prescribe medication. Think of it as a validation marker of their profession and status. Shrinks make you sit on the couch and talk about your father while they psychoanalyze you... but Doctors, they write prescriptions for medication to cure disease.

There was a study on NPR a few weeks ago suggesting a similar hidden bias in surgeons to recommend unnecessary surgery more often if there is a lot of competition. Not as a way to make money, but because more doctors lessens the work load - and preforming surgeries keeps them busy and engaged in their profession.

[edit on 11-11-2009 by Lasheic]



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 11:03 AM
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For me today peopel are getting to much from tv, like jordan maxwell says. People do not know how to be human,a nd what feelings and thoughts and actions they do, other than what they see on tv.

I think like everyone, we all do not understand, why we feel low, and why we feel high. Its part of being human, and the human race has been around for such a long time without all this pharma rubbish.

Like how the swine flu is rubbish, but media hype, pushed people into believing that they where going to die. Humans have been through far worse, and we are still here.

On depression, maybe the op is right, i am sure it plays some important role in humans, but the problem also is that plenty who think they are depressed are not really, and just need to do some exercise to get there hormones working. I am sure depression is a very complicated thing, and cannot be just written off as easy as op says, but i am sure it must play an important role.



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 11:24 AM
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reply to post by soficrow
 


The depression phenomena (and all of its derivatives) is primarily caused by the lack of understanding of the human psyche and of the thinking process. The subjective approach to thoughts we "receive" hides the manipulations being imposed on the mind. The process of deconstructing human psychology will be the first step to fully understand all the inner workings of the human psyche.

All the attempts made by scientists to discover the origins of thoughts have failed, and for a good reason. They do not originate from the brain, but from another realm of reality (another dimensional part of us). The profound beliefs in the egoistic propriety of our thinking process is the cosmic lie that has been imposed for the evolution of the souls, in order to fully experiment the physical 3rd density.



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 11:58 AM
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S&F and passing the link along!
this is by far the best thread i've read all week!



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 12:12 PM
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reply to post by melatonin
 


I agree with you partly so I am not arguing with you, just piggybacking.

But I wanted to add that another problem is how children are raised. There has been a movement that convinces parents that children have to be happy. And there is something wrong if they are not.

Fact is, children have the same range of emotion as adults do. But are taught to ignore them. So when they grow into teens and adults, they have this whole range of emotions they have no idea how to deal with.

So they begin to shut down and becomed overwhelmed.



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 12:16 PM
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Awesome thread sofi...


I would think that it bears to note that depression isn't always a static condition. There inherently is a fluctuating hormaonal/neurotransmitter ration in the body and while we discuss depression as a condition it is likely a bit more complicated than that (individually speaking).

As well...I wonder how many induced expectations from the ingestion of the propagation of the American Dream and Hollywood is responsible for people in this condition.

The implications of a simple question can have ramifications for the entirety of our society...



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 12:47 PM
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reply to post by andy1033
 




like jordan maxwell says. People do not know how to be human,a nd what feelings and thoughts and actions they do, other than what they see on tv.


Actually, that was a plot theme to the movie Network. Probably most famously known on ATS by Beale's "mad prophet rants". Though much more pointedly in the breakup scene between Duvall and Dunaway's characters.



And it was as wrong then as it's wrong now. Unless, of course, you can cite the research done to back up that claim. How many people do you know who break down and freeze when their "script" goes off course or beyond the bounds of television programming? Yet that's made on the assumption that we are only products of our input. If you go beyond the limits of our input, we lock up - like a computer program stalling due to an error which prevents it from getting the next instruction set, and so it just hangs in perpetuity or until presented again with valid code.

You said, "People do not know how to be human". Yet, if you believe what you wrote immediately after that - then I have to ask you - who was it that you suggest taught people how to be human before the television was invented? Did somebody always have to be there, even back to the dawn mankind, to fill our heads with programming and teach us how to be human? If so, then why should the prior outside programing be any more desirable than television programming? Aren't they both just arbitrary and foreign programming pushed onto us? Or did we as humans at one time infer our "human behavior" from the environment and social interaction? If such is the latter proposition, then why would we not still have the ability to infer how to be human from culture and social interaction, despite television?

Yes, we may mock or mimic the roles we see in the media as a means of predicting social experience, or for acceptance and assurance of correct behavior. But those roles quickly fall apart, and we don't just freeze. No more so than when someone pronounces a word you've never heard before - but none-the-less understand it's meaning by inferring from context.

"Sometime off television reading and book try. "



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 01:22 PM
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Originally posted by Lasheic
I wanted to check her credibility as well. The title of her book "Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves" and associations with Buddhism and the Dali Lama threw up some red flags for me. Though I guess it's more about neuroplasticity than fru-fru brain training advice according to the Amazon reviews.


lol, there is a lot of trash around in the self-help arena.

One scientifically validated Buddhism-inspired therapy is mindfullness. I'm a big fan and use it myself.


I also wonder if the stigma of being "quacks" and "shrinks" historically has influenced the bias of some psychologists over the last few decades to over-diagnose and unnecessarily prescribe medication. Think of it as a validation marker of their profession and status. Shrinks make you sit on the couch and talk about your father while they psychoanalyze you... but Doctors, they write prescriptions for medication to cure disease.


It's a cost, convenience, and time issue much of the time, IMO. If a person turns up at a quacks complaining of low mood etc, just easy to push them in the direction of a bottle of pills. The issue is that the people think small period of low mood needs treatment in the first place. And this is fostered by culture (as nixie points out), pharma, self-help gurus and many more.

Cognitive-behavioural Therapy can be time-consuming and expensive. It can work, though. But pills are just a convenient option, not so much a psychologist problem as they are predominately focused on behavioural therapy (not MDs). And shrinks are MDs, so can prescribe.

In the psychology field, many have noted that we have been overly focused on 'abnormality' and psychopathology, hence the new area of Positive Psychology.


There was a study on NPR a few weeks ago suggesting a similar hidden bias in surgeons to recommend unnecessary surgery more often if there is a lot of competition. Not as a way to make money, but because more doctors lessens the work load - and preforming surgeries keeps them busy and engaged in their profession.


I'm quite sure that making healthcare market- and profit-led is problematic. Overtreatment is a problem for the US system.

[edit on 11-11-2009 by melatonin]



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 01:30 PM
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reply to post by soficrow
 


Very nice thread with thought provoking questions as usual...



Originally posted by soficrow
What would happen if everyone stopped searching for "happiness at any cost by any means"? If everyone stopped self-medicating with painkillers, alcohol and recreational drugs? If doctors stopped bowing to Big Pharma and prescribing happy pills?

Would people start thinking again? And problem solving? Might thinking people change the world?

What would happen if nobody's urine contained Prozac, Zoloft or Paxil or any other antidepressant, and our world's water wasn't medically polluted any more, and our world's wildlife wasn't sucking up happy drugs along with us humans?


The degree to which human behavior has been altered by these substances is an interesting question. Assuming there has been some meaningful impact, one could also ask whether this condition helped to mitigate the pressures of modern existence by mollifying conflict.

Lots of rats in a small cage get along better if they're all high on drugs.


So in that sense the possibilities really go in both directions.

I agree that mild depression is completely natural and likely beneficial. I have always believed that it serves as an early warning signal for greater trouble.

Great thread, Sofi! Love seein' stuff like this.


[edit on 11-11-2009 by loam]



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 01:55 PM
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There are a lot of pathological conditions that could be considered forms of evolution.

This new take on Depression I recall reading a theory positing such about a year ago.

However, when you mix Capitalism with Health Care, society is going to consider anything that could be treatable as a pathological condition, regardless of whether it is a beneficiary condition or a detrimental one.

I have Sleep Apnea, Narcolepsy, and Insomnia. Although Modern Medicine considers all of these to be pathological conditions, I have discovered them to be a boon and an evolutionary step (as my father and my daughter also have all three of them). I never need more than 3-3.5 hours of sleep a night (as because of the Apnea it provides no physical benefit), and oftentimes can go a week at a time without the need for sleep (my daughter can go up to 9 months at a time without sleep). In 3.5 hours I get more REM Cycles than the average person does with 8-10 hours because I have no NREM Cycles and go from REM Cycle to REM Cycle immediately upon falling asleep. With needing less sleep I am able to live at least 50% more than the average person, having a more fulfilling waking life than most.

The point of this is that if a condition does not deter from your quality of living...if it does not adversely affect your ability to be functional, nor adversely affect either yourself or those in your life like your family and co-workers, then it should not be considered detrimentally pathological.

Thankfully some Health Care Providers realize this. When I was diagnosed with a rare Anxiety Disorder for which the only treatment was to turn myself into a non-functioning vegetable, my Psychiatrist determined that the coping mechanisms I had developed on my own were far more effective than any form of treatment. He considered it unethical to attempt to treat something that was clearly detrimental but which had been successfully adapted to, when most would have just prescribed the Medication even though the cure would have clearly been worse than the affliction.

Besides, everyone gets depressed. Depression is only pathological when there is no discernible trigger or cause for the Depression. If you are Depressed because Life Sucks or because your Cat/Grandma/Sister/Pope died, then you are perfectly normal and don't need treatment, even when the Pharmaceutical companies are more than eager to dispense you something to make you feel all better. However, even if you are chronically Depressed for no reason, there are benefits to such. All it takes is a different perspective and accepting and embracing that Depression rather than seeking medication. Name me one great Artist that didn't find inspiration in Depression? Name me one great Scientist that wasn't isolated and Depressed?

Humans achieve greatness when they not only accept their shortcomings, but when they utilize those shortcomings as stepping stones. When you see the things that make you different as faults and seek to remedy them with medication and treatment you fail to recognize your strengths and leverage them for your greater Will.



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 10:00 PM
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There is a similar thread, and it is good to see more than one study done on the adaptive or evolutionary ideology of depression:


Depression is an Evolution not a Malfunction

Mild and Clinical depression is not like being Unipolar. The depression found in Bipolar people is also not like that found in Unipolar. Unipolar is when depression has past the point of a physical change -- the damage is already done.

Only thing I found to help unipolar-ness is anything to elevate hypersensitivity. Plain anti-depressants and stimulants just make things worse in the long run.



[edit on 11-11-2009 by dzonatas]



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 11:03 PM
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Originally posted by melatonin
...Serious chronic depression is what might need some sort of treatment, that is pathological and disruptive.



Disruptive, yes. To production and economic output, mainly. But to individual growth, development, evolution? ...I wonder.

Seems to me that the biggest problem with disruptive / dysfunction is its impact on today's economic system.

But many older cultures accommodate the notion that people need "time out." My favorite is the Australian Aborigine tradition of "walkabout" - most dictionaries say it's a return to "traditional ways", but my understanding is that sometimes you just have to go walkabout to get your head straight. And when you do, your economic output pretty much sucks. ...Is that really such a bad thing?




I wouldn't solely blame it on pharma, though.



I don't. I figure Big Pharma fronts for the corporate cabal.



THANKS everyone for your contributions - just came online for a quick peek. Can't respond to everyone right now but I'll be back.



posted on Nov, 12 2009 @ 12:06 AM
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Originally posted by soficrow
Disruptive, yes. To production and economic output, mainly. But to individual growth, development, evolution? ...I wonder.

Seems to me that the biggest problem with disruptive / dysfunction is its impact on today's economic system.

But many older cultures accommodate the notion that people need "time out." My favorite is the Australian Aborigine tradition of "walkabout" - most dictionaries say it's a return to "traditional ways", but my understanding is that sometimes you just have to go walkabout to get your head straight. And when you do, your economic output pretty much sucks. ...Is that really such a bad thing?


Well, if there's a high risk of challenging for the Darwin award not really conducive to personal growth. It's not just an economic problem. And, like yourself, I would view that as a lesser issue.

But from a interpersonal and social perspective prolonged and deep depression ain't helpful. It affects families and friends, hope and dreams. Losing interest in those around us, ourselves, reduced self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, lowered health status (due to stress hormones etc), and in severe cases even delusion and hallucination isn't an ideal way to live for any prolonged period. And we can also add in the comorbid anxiety that affects a large proportion of the chronically depressed.

It really depends on the individual. Many chronically depressed come to accept and find a way to live with their lot when treatments fail. Others just can't, leading to potential harm of self and others.

I really would make the distinction between chronic major depression and the intermittent downs most of us experience and other temporary mood states.

But I agree with the timeout issue. I would also raise other forms of 'timeout' that are viewed as traditional (entheogens).

What I would say, though, is to be careful of the naturalistic fallacy. Chronic depression might be some form of evolutionary derived trait, whether side-effect or direct. But so is sickle-cell, potentially schizophrenia, and probably range of other devastating conditions. Doesn't mean they're 'good'.

Schizophrenia is a good example here. There's some research that shows a degree of schizotypy leads to higher levels of creativity. Which, of course, is a helpful trait. Schizotypy is a subclinical personality type that is very strongly associated with schizophrenia. I would speculate that a small dose of schizotypal traits leads to high creativity, excessive traits to schizophrenia. However, schizophrenia ain't so helpful. And I would think that those with schizophrenia are actually the price we pay for the existence of creative traits. All basic tentative research at this point. But it makes sense to me (cf. sickle-cell), especially knowing the fact that schizophrenia is a heterogenous condition. Even though the small doses of genes underpinning schizophrenia might have some adaptive value in most cases, treating schizophrenia is not a bad thing.

[edit on 12-11-2009 by melatonin]



posted on Nov, 12 2009 @ 02:06 AM
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Serious long-term chronic depression can incapacitate a person or leave them dead. There should be a name for it other than depression, because it is nothing like "being depressed". It's an inability to function, where the mind constantly replays agonisingly painful memories or just shuts down to avoid the unbearable pain. No-one who understands the continual numbness or agony of this life-threatening condition would suggest people suffering it avoid antidepressants.

However I'm all for an approach where a less severe depression is regarded as having some positives. It's like the times when I couldn't stop crying and I'd tell myself how good that was; it was washing out the tear ducts and irrigating the eyes, and salt water is good for the skin. So I'd make up my mind to keep crying as long as I could. This would generally alleviate the misery and stop me crying.

If you are mildly depressed, reading the research about how depression shrinks the brain and decreases the memory and leads to suicide could make you seriously depressed. Much better to consider the potential positives and work with them. We all need to practice using our "emotional muscles" so we can carry our mental burdens and learn from them instead of having to escape into fake happiness. - Just not all the time, time out through entertainment, companionship, a good walk, music, and even occasionally getting sloshed, can all be good therapy too.



posted on Nov, 12 2009 @ 02:39 AM
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I never really thought of depression as such but now that it's mentioned it seems so apparent. Depression, IMO, could definately be described as an evolutionary benefactor. Those that go through it do seem to be stronger and less prone to succumbing to "overwhelming" adversity. Although, there are numerous accounts of depression leading to suicide. I think that's basic natural selection(I hate to say that). It makes sense.

The best antidepressant though, is not medicinal. It's the feeling of love. Most people that suffer from depression do not love themselves nor feel loved by anybody else. The stigma that plagues us is one of popular culture: "love just happens". Which, we should all realise, isn't quite true. One must work to attain love and work to attain satisfaction.

One consequence of said-stigma is that when we find real love, we become disappointed because there are many things that do not fit the cultural ideal of love. Some of us get demanding or controlling, wanting someone else to fit our picture of "love" perfectly, without realising our ideal is misplaced.

Is it just me or does that seem somewhat like controlled evolutionary processes?



posted on Nov, 12 2009 @ 02:53 AM
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I think Depression in simply stress. Depression seems to me to be nothing more than the overwhelming desire for something to change.

Stress causes these chemical imbalances. The reason they don't want you to know this is because if someone is "stressed", people point fingers. If they are "depressed" it's conveniently nobody's fault.

It gives TPTB the ability to push stressed slaves harder, without taking any responsibility for their actions, because the person has a "medical condition". And it also can cause a person to believe that they have no control over their own mind.

It disgusts me.


[edit on 12/11/09 by NuclearPaul]



posted on Nov, 12 2009 @ 03:03 AM
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reply to post by NuclearPaul
 


I'm not so sure. I've been through my fair share of bouts with depression and I don't recall anything really being that stressful. I just hated life. I didn't feel loved. I didn't feel like there was a need for existence.

Also, my younger sibling dealt with depression frequently in his younger years. At the age of 8 he was contemplating suicide. What kind of "stress" put on an eight year old can make them want to end their life? He had lots of friends and did quite well in school. I don't think it's stress. Once I started talking with him and sharing with him and showing him that I care, it got much better. I believe depression is most often caused by feeling unwanted or unloved.



posted on Nov, 12 2009 @ 03:53 AM
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Really useful and interesting thread, Soficrow
S&F

Insight may arise from depression, in that you are forced to trawl the depths of your own resouces, to consider the worth of continuing to live, to find solace in the small beauties of life. To grit your teeth, and mutter into the pillow "I am a good person" until you believe it again.

If that experience enhances the world at large, I cannot see how. I do not regret depressive episodes; without them I wouldn't be me. Would I risk passing on the condition to hypothetical children? Absolutely not.

Just my 2 cents worth.





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