Thursday, October 16, 2014

Can #Depression Be Useful?

I read an article the other day about depression being an evolutionary trait that has been passed down by our ancestors, because it does harbor some usefulness. I read, and re-read it. I read it several times when I was depressed, and I just re-read it again in my current frame of mind, which is melancholy, but not what I would describe as depressed. I really wanted to let this idea sink in before really having much of an opinion on it.

In the article it talks about how when people are depressed they tend to shut down almost all other activities, and focus primarily on their problems. It's narrows down our focus, and reserves our energy for solving issues that triggered the depression in the first place. This is exactly what I was referring to in my last post. I was tired, and worn out so many issues being constantly tossed my way at once that I think my brain just needed to pull in it's energy to focus on what was the most important, which was/is taking care of my family. It was also a big, huge flashing warning that something in my life was not working. I needed to take a break from the distractions of others to really dismantle everything, and really understand what was happening. There are some people that have disorders that may indicate that depression just happens to them without warning, or reason, but most of us have reasons behind why we fall into depression. Most types of depression is triggered by an event, or lifestyle that our brain did not/cannot process in a healthy manner. Depression is a way for us to examine that trigger, and what behaviors it set forth that is not congruent with our life.

Some of the triggers are not things we can choose.
Sometimes it is things like death of a loved one, or natural disaster that takes our home, and livelihood. These kinds of unfortunate events are bound to happen in one form or another to everyone at some point. They can be devastating. Sometimes, we have several that tend to happen in a fairly quick succession. Like losing several close family members within a period of less than 5 years, or any other type of chronic loss that can leave one in mourning. If the brain does not find a way to process this sort of pain, and loss in a healthy manner it often will set forth a lot of disordered behavior. Depression, and OCD/anxiety related issues seems to be the main ones. Hoarders for example, almost always suffer from deep depression, and anxiety. They also almost always have a story of tragedy behind their disordered ways. I think that most people can't hardly see past the clutter of a hoarder's house, and their obvious inability to make better decisions to find out why they collect compulsively, but it's important that we try to view others with empathy, and less judgement. Shame is (as I have said before so many times on this blog) a very poor motivator to change. It's likely someone who does illogical things (such as hoard items to the point of danger) already knows that what they're doing is unhealthy. They just don't know how to stop.

Then we have the culprit of my type of deep depression that occurred recently, which is chronic stress. I think everyone has stress. I also think that a good dose of it here, and there is a good thing. It can serve as a challenge that we grow from taking on tasks that we might not if not otherwise pushed. Some of the things that most people are the most proud of (degrees, and other such accomplishments) are things that took a lot of hard work, and was likely fairly stressful at the time of the event. It feels great to us to feel like we conquered tasks that we set out to do, and so in some ways a low level stressor when applied to certain situations can be motivating, and rewarding.

The issue arises then when it is not stress that is low level, or to achieve a specific goal, but rather to just quell the fires as they arise in our life. That type of consistent emergency stress that makes one feel like they're riding a stationary bike is not helpful. There is nothing beneficial about that kind of long term stress. That is the kind that I was/am under. I think my brain just decided that enough was enough. I went into problem solving mode for a couple weeks. I could not afford to spare the energy to do anything extra than the bare necessities. I think it goes double time for those of us on the spectrum that socializing is the first to go. It's not that we don't need friends, or people. We do. It's just that while I need support just like anyone else the amount of energy that it takes for me to socialize can be a lot. I discuss this phenomenon is this post if you'd like to understand it better.

There are some people I have noticed that create a bunch of 'fires' so they always seem to have drama that they just can't escape from. That is disordered behavior in, and of itself, but it's not what I mean by chronic stress. When I use that term I am talking about natural occurrences that happen in people's lives that are not of the person's creation, or control. Death, disaster, illness, ect.. Not bad choices that cause bad consequences.

The depression that I was experiencing was a wake up call of sorts. It was my brain's way of letting me know that I had done exhausted all my reserves, and was running on fumes. I had to step back from things, and really take stock of what needed to change. Something had to. I could not just keep going shrugging it all off as just the way it is.

In the next entry I will talk more about some of the things I have done recently to lessen the stress in my life, even the stress that I thought a couple weeks ago was not anything I could do anything about. I didn't want to make this entry too long, or take away from the main point. I'd like to know what you think of this evolutionary theory I posted about if you'd care to read the article, and comment.


  1. Mild depression can help me focus my creative energy. Some of my best art pieces were created while depressed, but as the depression deepens my functioning ability & cares dissipate, so there is a limit.
    I believe depression effects individuals on varied levels because of our temperaments. I am more Sanguine/Choleric type, while my husband is more Melancholy type, and he always seems more negatively affected by depression & has a harder time working through it, while I bounce-back quicker.
    I definitely agree that with the right circumstances & person that it can be useful though.

    1. I would say I am primarily melancholic with a healthy dash of phlegmatic, but I have never had terrible depression that held me down in it's depths for long. My husband would definitely be primarily choleric, and his depression is long lasting, and very severe. He does not go into problem solving mode that is about anything other than work type of tasks. In other words, his problem solving does not often contain much self awareness, so the usefulness is limited to task oriented types of activities, and not about changing one's self to a higher state of happiness, ect....

      Interesting page. Thanks for sharing!


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