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Philosophical and spiritual perspectives on "depression."

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posted on Oct, 12 2009 @ 10:53 PM
Depression is one of the most common psychological ailments today, and its growing in scope. The orthodox stance is to treat it as a medical pathology, usually with pharmaceutical intervention.

But is this the only way of looking at this phenomenon?

Perhaps people are depressed because we are living in a depressing world. Perhaps psychologists ought to concil people more along the lines of reaching OUTWARD to CHANGE this world, rather than treating their depression as a purely inward, inner phenomenon. But this would blur the lines among politics, psychology, and sociology, threatening the "expert's" neat little niches of expertise and influence. So it never gets done.

What about spiritual responses...meditiation, contemplation, prayer...whatever your faith? For what its worth, I found immersion along this path far more effective in combatting my own episode of clinical depression some 20 years ago than the little pills they forced me to take...many of the great saints and relgious thinkers of all religions were tormented when young by symptoms that today would probably be dismissed as "clinical depression" but which at the time were seen as great inner spiritual struggles, to be resolved on a spiritual plane.

There is a theory propounded by religious studies scholar Karen Armstrong that in all times and places, a minority of adolescents are innately prone to deep depression that borders on if not crosses the line to what would be considered by psychologists a "psychotic break" (her words). Yet for tens of thousands of years, the minority of adolescents who went though this experience in most hunter-gatherer societies were considered to be undergoing their own personal initiatory battles, and they usually emerged spiritually stronger to become the shamans (or medicine women, if female) of their tribes. Perhaps this is an inborn characteristic designed to serve the need for such people which has not been erased yet in modern times, even though modern times has little use anymore for shamans or medicine women. Today, such adolescents, if not ridiculed as spoiled navel-gazers, are religated to the clincal waitng room for their little pills and paper cups of water.

Or, if you prefer a less religious/spirtual take, how about philosophy? In classical Greco-Roman times, depression (or "melencholia") was called the "Gift of Chronos" and seen as a painful yet extremely valuable "gift" that burned away intellectual blindness and resulted in intelectual clarity, philosophical insight, and wisdom.

I think its wrong to ignore all these ancient perspectives and just push pills on people, considering the whole thing a "sickness" and nothing more.

posted on Oct, 12 2009 @ 11:54 PM
Nice post!
I like many was diagnosed with depression in my teens and was given medication for it and have been at a struggle to kick the medication ever since. (I'm 20 now). I actually suceeded for a year or two but fell victim to anxiety again once I started college. I really don't want to take them I know I can beat this, but if I don't take them I can't sleep and if I don't get enough sleep I can't do my work. I plan on trying to kick it this summer again, maybe I'll try weening myself off of this time instead of going cold turkey.

It is very interesting though when I was off my medication, I would have a few depression episodes every now and then, but when I had them or after I did I came up with some of my best musical ideas (I'm a composer). I was actually kind of shocked when I read tonight that John Lennon would have these episodes of "mental breakdown" so to say or "severe depression" and he would come out of them with better ideas. Same goes with Robert Schumann, Beethoven, Johnny Cash and so on. I think it's more severe in creative/spiritual people than more logical ones.

My Depressive spells are usually filled with sorrow, longing, and intense emotions, and afterward great happy, joyous ones. So it's no wonder my best music comes during or after these episodes.

posted on Oct, 13 2009 @ 12:21 AM
Actually, depression isn't a common psychological ailment. It is a common mood. Considerable confusion arises because we don't distinguish between depression, and depressive illness. There is a huge difference between the two.

Depression is common. It is a mood. Everyone has times when he is depressed. It is a normal and healthy part of life. You get a bad test grade, you feel depressed. Someone runs over your dog, you lose a job, your significant other gives you grief, etc., etc., it is reasonable to feel depressed about it for a while. If you suffer a serious loss without feeling depressed, that is not a good sign. It suggests that you might be stifling your emotions, which could cause problems.

But basically, if your life sucks for any reason, it is a normal and healthy response to feel depressed about it.

With normal, healthy depression, you mourn your loss, then life goes on. Maybe your friends come over to cheer you up, and it works. Maybe you just "snap out of it" by yourself. Maybe it's just that time heals all wounds, and you let go and move on with your life.

Depressive illness is vastly different. It is an illness. Although traditionally regarded as a psychological problem caused by early emotional traumas, researchers are increasingly coming to believe that depression (and other psychiatric illnesses) is actually a brain illness, an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Some believe that early emotional traumas may lead to permanent changes in the brain's chemistry; others think that the defect is hereditary. In either case, these chemical imbalances can be measured.

With depressive illness, you may feel depressed, even when life doesn't suck. Or your response to sucky things in life is excessive, out of proportion to what happened. So, for example, things are going OK, but then you can't seem to enjoy life, can't seem to get out and do things, meet friends, etc. Or, you do poorly on a test and have a total meltdown, hide under the covers for a week and so on. Your mood isn't appropriate to your situation. What makes it depressive illness, instead of plain old depression, is that you aren't able to bounce back, to snap out of it, to let go and move on. You're stuck there without the necessary resources to fix it.

Unfortunately, since everyone experiences depression, they tend to assume that anyone who is showing a depressed mood is just experiencing normal depression. Since most people can snap out of that, they expect the sufferer to be able to do it, too. They blame him for his suffering, telling him he's weak, that he's not trying hard enough, etc. This is one of the cruelties of the disease. Not only do you suffer, you are blamed for your own suffering, abandoned by your loved ones who don't understand.

For many people - possibly the majority - the notion of a spiritual solution to depression is valid. Often we feel depressed because our lives are unfulfilling, empty, meaningless. A depressed mood is an appropriate response to such a life. Taking steps to enrich our lives is an appropriate way to overcome the mood.

For those suffering depressive illness, however, this won't work. No amount of positive thinking or meditation is going to replace the missing amines in the brain. At best, they may help reduce the intensity of the depression, but they cannot alleviate it. Worse, when the efforts prove ineffective, the sufferer is often blamed for this, for a lack of "faith", for "negativity", for lack of effort. This is very much like blaming a paraplegic for not getting out of his chair, saying he's not trying hard enough, he's too negative. The reality is that he *cannot* do it.

Same with depressive illness. It's not laziness, weakness, apathy, or wickedness that keeps him down. It's a chemical imbalance. He cannot muster up the resources to overcome the mood. He cannot "snap out of it" or "think happy thoughts". The chemicals that enable someone to do that are missing from his brain. Often medicine is the most effective remedy. Sometimes other forms of therapy are also helpful, to help the person overcome the emotional problems that arise from being misunderstood and despised.

Using medicine to treat normal, healthy depression is a VERY BAD IDEA. It interferes with normal healing. For depressive illness, medication may be the only effective treatment. If you need it, you need it, no matter how much you want to be pure and spiritual.

posted on Oct, 13 2009 @ 12:34 AM
In this world all most people want are pills to quickly ale the problems, I am not exceptions as if I was feeling bad I just got an energy drink and went on about my way ( this is if I was working an eight hour shift on that day ). I'd say I was heavily depressed when I was on Adderall ( A.D.D medication ) This particular one I was extremely suicidal it got pretty dangerous so I had to keep forcing myself to sleep to get over it, There was another medication ( A.D.D related ) that I swear made me see the "gates" of the afterlife many times and made it seem more glorious than the life here, many times I was close to attempting suicide; but to be honest I couldn't find myself to do it and to this day not sure why. There was another A.D.D medication, but it didn't last long before I just eventually threw the pills back at the doctor and said "F-it"

Ever since then I've been trying to pull myself back up, at certain points the doctors tried to get me to take medication for it, but rather than taking it I just designed to find a medium to take care of it. Most of the time I'd say the best remedy for it at this point for me was to wake up at 6:00 and go outside and watch the sunrise and bike ride, then later on go to class or something. Overall I've found that the normal things that people do in their everyday lives are sometimes that things that help them lose the depression. Ex. Music, drawing, and video games are a few big ones for me that take my mind away from it.

Often times I always wonder if I made the right choice back when I was a teenager locked in my room to continue living along in this world or if I should have gone out of it; and on the other hand the thoughts are erased from my mind and I'll usually feel thirsty and hungry. I suppose that would be a normal college student thing..?

posted on Oct, 13 2009 @ 01:07 AM
reply to post by chiron613

Depression is not a 'mood', depression and 'depressive illness' are one and the same.
People do not feel depressed when someone runs over their dog, they lose a job, their significant other gives them grief etc, they feel down or sad, its when that sadness does not go away and affects every aspect of their life that it becomes 'Depression'.

Alot of people just use the word for any situation they feel down, it is an illness though.

To the op, alot of people ive met suffering with depression do meditation, they dont blindly swallow pills, they eat right (diet plays a great part in mental state), excercise and try and keep their mind busy.
Doctors only prescribe pills because it is necessary to achieve a normal chemical balance in the brain, and no amount of talking to councelors will do that.

Depression cant be fixed by any one thing it takes great effort from the sufferer to overcome it, medication is often necessary at least at the start of recovery, but positive thinking is required for real recovery and also to maintain a positive mental state afterwards.

Anything that makes the sufferer a little happier is excellent in the treatment of this illness. It depends on the individual.

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