A negative state..A positive or realistic outlook? Anti Depressants, Personality and Neurogenesis

Our last discussion on the “Anatomy of melancholy” had me thinking about how most people in the class thought it was such a pessimistic outlook to depression. But “it’s a negative and ‘depressing’ state” is what I thought- how could one possibly think optimistically about it?  There I was, appreciating the fact that he had never regretted his existence, believing that I was taking a very realistic take on the nature of his condition. But as I held firm on my ideals of realism, I left no room for any optimism. At the end of article, I realized I was settling for management of the condition rather than even hoping for a complete cure of the same. I had, without realizing, mentally established that in such severe cases of depression people should be more realistic instead of hoping for the impossible. However, after seeing this video I realized that there is hope for relief and redemption even in the face of severe depression.

http://www.ted.com/talks/sherwin_nuland_on_electroshock_therapy.html

Nonetheless, I still maintain that Solomon’s article was very insightful in many ways. I definitely was transfixed while reading it. Without being a sufferer of depression myself, I felt myself experiencing so much of what he so eloquently described. There was a certain power in his words that resonated from his simplistic honesty about the situation as he experienced it. I believe this is what motivated my more realistic stance on the entire article. As I read it, I liked that there was no one conclusion to be made from his article. He didn’t come down strongly with a definite answer on how to cure depression, on whether or not anti-depressant drugs are on the whole good or bad, or on whether depression should be seen as a valuable experience or as a disease that needs to be cured. His story was honest almost urging people to not pretend to know answers to the questions of depression, because in reality there are no definitive ones.

As I find myself swaying between the two stances, I don’t know which one to lean more towards.  Is it possible to be realistic and optimistic or are they mutually exclusive perspectives that can never be reconciled? Is one being deluded if they adopt a positive outlook to something that can potentially never be cured? Or is one being a bitter defeatist in not fighting the dark times with the hope of eventual brighter moments? When I think about the two men I can’t help but compare the two cases. In the case of this leading surgeon, he claims that his childhood conditions and family history of poverty, illness, and disease laid a strong ground for his depressive symptoms. Like Solomon who was afraid to take a shower, his case was bad enough to prevent him from even just getting out of bed. Like Solomon, he believed that depression caused one to be completely devoid of any opinion on anything- for him “nothing was clear” in any respect. He resented the idea of hospitalization and like Solomon tried every possible treatment for what most authorities deemed “incurable”. But eventually, he was completely cured with the help of drastic ECT.

So what was the difference between the both of them? Did the difference lie in their personality and motivation to fight or did it lie in the biology of their condition that was beyond their control? This relates to Lia’s response on the statement “Some people are disabled by levels of depression that others can handle, and some contrive function despite serious symptoms.  Antidepressants help those who help themselves.” Does the action of antidepressants, and hence one’s optimistic or realistic perspective on the manifest condition, really pertain to the individual personality or the individual level of neurogenesis?

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6 thoughts on “A negative state..A positive or realistic outlook? Anti Depressants, Personality and Neurogenesis

  1. I think that you can definitely be both realistic and optimistic when considering depression and the possible ways of ‘curing’ it. If we think about things realistically, there ARE things that we can do. Realistically, some people completely come out of depression and go on to be happy-go-lucky individuals. While this is not true for everyone, there are of course positives and negatives (both optimistic and pessimistic) when it comes to this disorder.

    Also something to consider: we all look at things differently-including depression. What someone might view as pessimistic may be optimistic to another. Furthermore, its is because we all differ in our views that some people may be more prone to succombing to depression because they tend to view things more pessimistically. Just a thought.

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  2. I watched that video and I really was amazed at his story, but I wonder if all we hear about are the amazing miracles that ECT produces and if not all results are so dramatic. I am glad that he, and others who are suffering from severe depression have found a “cure” as it seems but it must not work for everyone or else we would have declared this a cure-all long ago!

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    1. Wow. This video is extraordinarily insightful. I am so glad you found it, Darshini. It provides an amazing personal account into electroshock therapy, its history, and a little humor thrown in.

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  3. I think what made Solomon’s article appear so pessimistic is due to the fact that depression is a pessimistic disorder. It is basically an unpredictable disorder (in Solomon’s case things were actually going quite well) and modern science has not found a conclusive treatment to it. What’s more tragic about depression is that it’s episodic, so it can reappear after an individual has spend time, money, and energy on treating his/her previous bout of depression. What’s more, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability in the world. So, it’s a raging forest fire with no fire extinguishers in sight, and it’s catching trees fast!

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  4. That was really an amazing video that is absolutely worth watching. Before watching this video I really thought of ECT as something out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There is such a huge stigma around it, and could not imagine why anyone would put themselves through that experience. However after reading Solomon’s article and really seeing how detrimental major depression is I can see why ECT has appeal. So maybe ECT would work for many people but I think that the stigma that surrounds it deters many people for giving it the opportunity to.

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  5. I found your post to be really thought provoking, especially because we just learned about neurogenesis and also a little about antidepressants in Biological Basis of Behavior. I also think that it is possible to be optimistic about significantly improving one’s quality of life if you suffer from such a condition. While the make-up of one’s body can only be controlled so much, optimism that a permanent cure for something so devastating will be found is necessary if researchers want to succeed.

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