Friday, June 08, 2007

What Causes Depression? You Ask

An answer to the WikiAnswer question, "What are the causes of depression?"

The simple answer is nature and nurture. It's sort of a "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" conundrum, and this goes for many human conditions and illnesses besides depression.

Genetics play a part, probably the biggest role in determining whether or not and HOW we experience "clinical" depression (as opposed to the normal disappointments, blues and sadness of a fully lived life). No wonder many still don't think depression is a "real illness" since it seems to be just an acute case of what most people feel at some times in their lives. But depression the illness has staying power and debilitating aspects that aren't "normal."

Our genetics set us up for a propensity to behaviors, moods, actions and interactions which reinforce and prolong the recognizable symptoms of depression, such as lethargy, irritability, feelings of hopelessness and even suicide. The genes are at work before we ever learn to manipulate, much less control, our behavior. The genes are working in the womb and when we're one and two and four and twelve. So what seem like cocky or cranky or confrontational or irritable or moody or depressed moods are driven by cogs deep inside us.

Some of us have more predispositions than others. Some have supportive environments to offset the genes. Others suffer in environments which actually pray on the symptoms and increase, intensify and prolong the depression.

Then there are those who, through their own peculiar stews of nature and nurture, become "highly sensitive" (some might say overly sensitive types), and these people tend to catch real grief for their moods and conditions and disorders.

Our genes are at work before we ever have a world view. But our world view starts to form and kicks in with all sorts of factors at play, from genes to parents to nutrition to social support to all sorts of intelligences and inclinations.

This culture applauds a nearly manic form of "snap to it" drive and "just do it" workaholism. No wonder the disease of depression and those who have depression are still, even with some increased awareness, mocked and marginalized, as if it really were a failure of will power.

As a significant resource in this context, I can recommend one book especially, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, by Elaine Aron, Ph.D. This book offers real encouragement to those who, for whatever reason, are at odds with and discouraged by their surroundings.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Slogging Through & Beyond

I happened upon WikiAnswers and the question, "How do you get through depression?"

Here is my answer:


1. Find something good about today.

2. Think of what you most enjoy (and when you can do it again).

3. Have a healthy meal.


Many people who have depression struggle with their feelings and thoughts and symptoms for weeks, months and years. I am 49, and I have been aware of my depression for most of that time, yes, I'd say at least 40+ of those 49 years. There have been moments and days of happiness, joy, even euphoria (maybe hypomania?) and satisfaction. But the vast majority of my life, I have known I was swimming upstream against depression, or with depression or in spite of depression. I have not functioned fully or in most conventional ways in many years and have no money and little social or medical support (without insurance, of course, none for over 20 years). And so one common way to "get through" depression is to slog through rather aimlessly and inefficiently, without focus. But to really "get through" depression and come out on the other side, as best one can, it takes more than time, more than slogging through. I've squandered too much time; the best solutions take LESS time. Depression really is a condition, first, more than a state of mind, though your state of mind matters. It is not just how you think, though how you think matters. It is more than just doing the right things (like exercise, finding a good doctor, taking meds), though doing those right things matters. It is at least learning to be more effective in the struggle against your condition, which for most of us means paying attention to a lot of factors: our social health, exercise, diet, sleep, relationship challenges, work challenges, and getting and sticking with medical help.

I will start you off by recommending just two books, first, the book my doctor recommended to me: Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by David Burns, M.D., and second, the book I recommend most myself: Undoing Therapy: What Therapy Doesn't Teach You and Medication Can't Give You, by Richard O'Connor, Ph.D.

But before you go do anything else, try the three things I suggest at the beginning of this answer. Take care! Lawrence

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Book Burning for Literacy

A used bookstore owner in Kansas City is burning a few boxes worth of old books to draw attention to America's dropping reading rates.

Tom Wayne, the owner of Prospero's Books, says that the publishing industry only cares about profits, not the nation's overall readership, so Wayne is taking one form of telegenic (and bloggable) protest into his own hands.

According to Wayne:

In 1982, 57 % of Americans read at least ONE complete book a year, not school or work related.

In 2002, 46 % of Americans read at least one book.

Wayne figures that, at this rate, in another 10 years or so, only about a third of Americans will read a book a year.

You heard it here first.