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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I'm Studying Your Book in My Psychology Class and Have a Question

Hi this is N-------L-------- and I am taking a Psychology class studying your book Depression is a Choice. I had a question about part of your book. You discuss choice and how depression becomes a "routine," and I was wondering if you think this develops due partly to habit, or how exactly it becomes a routine.

Also you titled Chapter 12 "Depression Junkies" and you talk about how we become addicted to problems, how even the most life-threatening addictions such as alcoholism, drug abuse, depression and promiscuity very soon become the status quo. This is the neurological explanation of St. Augustine’s warning,“A habit, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity.”

I was wondering if you could further discuss how depression becomes or is an addiction. Thank you so much for your time!

Dear N. L.

Habitual routines, or thinking behaviors such as depression or cigarette smoking, or drinking, or migraines, or insomnia actually grow into neural patterns in the memory banks of your brain, neuron by neuron, as you do the behaviors or thinking patterns over and over. Since the brain works by learned association, more and more things start to become associated with the thinking behaviors and routines as you do them: particular rooms, times of day, even colors or sounds, and smells can activate the neural patterns automatically through learned association.

Here is the syndrome. You encounter some particular sight, sound, or smell associated with depression, you feel depressed, you reach for a cigarette, or a drink, you lurch into a migraine or bottomless despair in an instant. That is, associations can “trigger” due to a learned association with things that occur at the same time habitual routines are engaged in, or with other sights or sounds that are associated with the particular routines.

People who slide into these destructive routines are people who do not, on purpose, fashion coping mechanisms in advance for stressors or negative associations which occur in their lives, many with some regularity. If you decide on doing a mind exercise when you feel yourself anxious, or sleepless, or afraid, or “edgy” for "no reason," you are less likely to slide into a routine of chain smoking, drinking, or negative and downer thinking which triggers the fight or flight response, which causes the production of stress chemicals in the brain, which causes a depletion of metabolic processes and brings on the helpless "routine" of depression.

The neural pattern of depression can trigger , by itself, from association without negative thinking beforehand. You can always do a mind exercise when the stressors occur, or even when the depression itself hits instantly at full force. Then, when the mind exercise has taken the edge off the anxiety, due to the anxiety or the depressive feeling not being thought while the exercise is taking place, the stress chemicals cease to be produced, the panic subsides, and a person can then move forward into small tasks or duties and thus take on their day. Addiction is the same as habit. It is a mindset based upon a neural pattern you have built with certain behaviors over a period of time. Thinking is also a behavior.

The addiction surreptiously alleviates your needs because the addictions are associated with your stressors, and immediately occupy your attention automatically when stressors occur. In a way the routines thus "save" you in that you don't have to do anything to alleviate the actual stressors, you simply "go with" the routines. A. B. Curtiss

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