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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Where Does Depression Come From?

Thank you for your comment yesterday, Ginger: "While I don't sense this is true for you, depression for me often stems from worry and 'what if?' thinking. I identify with my mind, which is quite skilled at projecting itself into an imaginary future, creating fear within me."

It's interesting you are thinking along these lines because I was just thinking yesterday about what exactly does cause my depression. I haven't had any for a couple of days and was kind of looking for it. Perhaps it is counter-productive to be looking forward to depression so you can study it.

But when it does come, it seems to be a syndrome that is made up of (part A) fearful stress which seems to be chemo-biological and caused by fearful thoughts and (Part B) futile hopelessness which seems to be electro-biological and activated by a certain level of fearful stress. The hopelessness futility part is the most difficult to bear. I think

The fearful stress I can pretty much ride out since I have had decades of experience with migraine headaches, panic attacks and claustrophobia in the past. None of which has bothered me for a long time.

Perhaps the fearful stress, if it is intense enough, triggers the electro-biological futile hopelessness syndrome. I am quite sure that when I get rid of a bad depression, it is the electro-biological hopelessness that goes first, then the physical symptoms, which are grosser elements, fade afterwards.

I even suspect that the electro-biological sense of futility is a hard-wired neural pattern for all of us that can remain fairly benign if it is not used much, like in people who are not bothered by depression because they learned, early on, to distract themselves from it whenever it triggered. This seems to be true about my husband who said from an early age he learned to distract himself from bad feelings by going over baseball and football plays in his head--plays in which he always carried the ball.

In Part B I am supported by the research of environmental psychologists who see depression as a vestigal adaptation of an earlier defense mechanism that stopped all action when the path ahead augured in some way for failure. There's nothing more suited to stop action than depression.

But the syndrome can grow into a monster syndrome if it is allowed to activate and reactivate itself by people who don't use distraction early on, like me, the daughter and sister of two raging manic-depressives. I've learned how to get out of depression whenever it comes because I have created another neural pattern, that triggers off when depression triggers off, that reminds me I have the power to do alternative thinking other than thinking about my pain.  But had I learned distraction methods when I was a child, I probably wouldn't get hit so hard or so often.  A. B. Curtiss

1 comment:

Ginger said...

"The hopelessness futility part is the most difficult to bear I think." Yes, I agree. I go to the part B stage if I can't muster up faith in "what is," and my mind continues to badger me with "what if?" The hopelessness that ensues can be quite miserable.

I had a bout that lasted a couple of years over a "what if?" scenario that my mind held on to like a dog with a bone. The sense of powerlessness and doom and gloom felt overwhelming.

Eventually positive self-talk, substituting hopeful for horrific thoughts, broke through the misery. You helped by advising me to stop focusing on losses and disappointments and start taking action to make the most of current reality. I really needed someone put me in the path of the positive and you were the one who did.

I have continued on this good track with only brief pitstops at negative places now and then. I really make an effort now to start positive self talk asap. Sometimes I just say, "Knock it off"...or "Don't even go there" and that can cut the downer trip short pronto!

You dissected the situation perfectly. A's fearful thoughts lead to B's sense of futility. If we can short-circuit the fearful thoughts through mind games or positive talk/imagery, we can then avoid or diminish the pain of the worst part(B).

It helps to clarify the process. Depression won't be able to bulldoze over us if we have a grip on the path it takes. It's like charting a hurricane & practicing disaster preparedness. Thanks.