Author Topic: Depression  (Read 1588 times)

Offline jonneve

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Depression
« on: April 04, 2014, 12:54:17 AM »
Hello all,

I'm new here, and I like the philosophy of this website very much. It give me a lot to think about.

I'm curious in particular as to what the approach would be, in light of hormesis, towards the management of depression. Depression seems to result from a mess of negative thinking patterns, as well as an extreme sensitivity to any and every negative event, and an extraordinary propensity to take everything the wrong way. We all experience negative events and feelings, and in fact, we all get depressive feelings at times, when we fail to reach our goals, when we see ourselves get older without having realized our dreams, when bad things happen to us, etc. It seems to me that the difference between a healthy mind and a depressed one is that the depressed one never gots over it.

So my reasoning is that to a certain extent, depression could be considered a type of fragility. And that basically, such people "just" need to touchen up. Now, I know that that is a gross over-simplification of a complex and poorly understood problem. I also know that no all depressed people are depressed in at all the same way, so perhaps my reasoning doesn't make sense for all, but it seems to make some sense for the depressed person I happen to be closest to, namely, my wife.

One example of what I mean would be exercice. Exercice is often reputed to help with depression, and yet, exercice is exactly what a depressed person feels like least. Could it be that forcing yourself to struggle through something hard physically helps emotionnaly as well?

To get to the point, I'm wondering if you have any ideas of ways in which a person could deliberately train themselves to "toughen up" their emotional state, so that they aren't blown off course every time the slightest issue arises? Taking my wife as an example, it seems clear that there are times when she is emotionally stronger, and times when she is weaker. When she is weak, it takes less than nothing to get her down, whereas when she is stronger, things that normally would have had her upset for days will be brushed off like nothing. Basically, I'm wondering what she can do to increase her emotional strength and resilliance so that she can be that way a greater part of the time.

Any thoughts?

Regards,
Jonathan Neve.

Offline Tom

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Re: Depression
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2014, 07:03:41 PM »
Studies have shown that anti-depressant drugs (e.g., prozac) works just as well as placebos (i.e., not better, not less). Despite that, countless doctors still refuse to believe the validity of such studies.

There were some testimonies that certain depression arises from a faulty diet, and that adopting a raw diet was one of the effective means to reverse depression symptoms for some people. I can't verify that, but food for thought still.

Depression can be treated more intelligently. There are some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CRT) out there exhibiting a bit of success. What you think about can indeed induce a physiological response.

The link between exercise and depression is pretty solid in the mainstream by now. Exercise raises the levels of serotonin and endorphin, leading to a happier mood and greater sense of well-being.

In terms of "toughen up" one's mental fragility, I can only speculate that hormetic stress might lead to what I call a "rage response." This is what one feels when they are outside in a freezing and windy weather, or when they are in a hurry and have to accomplish great feat in a relatively short timeframe. Incidentally, the so-called "rage to master" is an attributed frequently found in prodigies. Part of hormetism, in my mind, is to be constantly under that frame of mind.
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Offline Torvald

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Re: Depression
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2014, 11:47:39 AM »
jonneve,

Putting hormesis to work to counter depression sounds to me like a great idea. If your wife is willing to experiment, you might be able to be of great service to her. Here are some thoughts on how you might go about it. I'm no expert; I'm just speculating and hoping this will lead to something fruitful.

1. Look for clues to regulatory feedback loops.

I don't think this is right: "Depression seems to result from a mess of negative thinking patterns, as well as an extreme sensitivity to any and every negative event, and an extraordinary propensity to take everything the wrong way." Rather, depression is those things, and results from other things, which are not well-understood. Or better still, depression is a state where your emotional "set point" is set very low. Really, "depression" is a pretty vague term. The feedback loops that are active during depression probably include a lot more than just thought patterns and sensitivity that maintain a feeling of hopelessness. Depression also commonly involves changes in sleep patterns and in appetite. For example, when some people are depressed, they sleep a lot more than normal; others sleep less. Often when people are depressed, their appetite reduces and focuses mainly on starch, and they gain weight if try to eat their usual diet.

That all suggests that depression is a disorder of many simultaneous feedback loops in the body and brain (a "regulatory disorder"), mutually reinforcing each other and keeping the whole person in a bad "basin of attraction". Or rather, "depression" probably covers a variety of different kinds of bad, mutually reinforcing feedback loops. And that, of course, suggests that hormesis probably has something to offer.

So, one course of action you and your wife could start off with is to look for non-mental correlates of her depressions. Do they tend to happen at certain times of the year? Do her sleep patterns change? Does she crave a certain kind of food?

I've heard that people living at arctic latitudes often get depressed during the *summer*, when the days are extremely long, because their circadian rhythms stop getting entrained by the Sun. (They don't see enough "dark" to trigger the rest cycle, so they start tuning out "light" and don't get triggered for activity, and it spirals out of control.) For some people, the main trigger for depression is the high *rate of change* of the length of the day around the Spring and Fall equinoxes. If you find a correlation with time of year or sleep schedule, that suggests that a simple cure is to help stabilize your wife's sleep schedule, especially during prone times of the year. "Light therapy" has been helpful for some, and has received some serious research. What time you eat as well as what time you wake can also have a lot of effect on circadian rhythms. Basically, the trick here is to knock the system out of a bad attractor basin and into a good one, so your wife's whole body tends to keep her in her normal state. Sometimes, just staying up all night can knock someone out of a depression.

if your wife craves a certain food while depressed, that food might itself be the cause of the depression—especially if the food seems to bring some relief. Again, this would be a case of a bad attractor basin, where feeling bad, craving the food, and eating the food are themselves part of the self-stabilizing feedback loop. A simple experiment to try is to cut that food out for a month. If the food is part of the bad feedback loop, she should feel *worse* for the first few days and then come out of it.

2. Paradox psychology

Actually, something I like about hormesis is that it doesn't require you to figure out causal connections in much detail. That's usually not feasible, and even when people figure out key links in the causal chain, those usually just lead people to target a single key link, and thereby set up a new, bad feedback loop where the treatment is itself part of the loop (like craved foods, above).

Paradox psychology is a way to get the system to add a self-correcting feedback loop of its own. The technique is: do the bad symptoms (depressive thoughts, etc.) deliberately. For example, during a depression, *decide* to come up with reasons why your situation is hopeless, to favor negative interpretations of ambiguous events, to feel helpless, etc. Another approach is to schedule the bad thoughts and emotions. For example, you decide that at 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, you're going to see only negative outcomes for every possible action you're considering in some important part of life. I believe it's supposed to work best if you schedule the depression at a time when you expect it to happen on its own.

After each time doing one of these deliberate depressions, your wife reports whether she succeeded or not. It's a "win/win" situation, since if she "fails", then she's succeeded in overcoming the depression, and if she "succeeds", then she's succeeded in taking control of it.

This is the opposite of the usual "will yourself out of it" advice, which I think is pretty well known not to work. Using willpower directly against your own mood just reinforces whatever feedback loop is producing the mood (which, BTW, can be handy if the mood is positive). Deliberately engaging in the mood sets up whatever additional feedback loops are needed to give the conscious mind control over it. What's actually going on in the brain is probably way too complex to consciously understand or control directly. "Will yourself out of it" puts the entire burden on the existing ability to control mood; "do the unwanted thing deliberately" provides a way for that ability to gradually grow.

I've heard some people report success with merely *monitoring* their mood and making no attempt to oppose it, increase it, schedule it, or anything. For some people, this might be enough to trigger a self-correcting feedback loop.


Naturally, whichever approach your wife tries, it has to be done enough times, over a long-enough period, that there is a real opportunity to get past the initial weirdness and see second-order effects (positive effects that are triggered by the weird/negative first-order effects which you can induce directly). Logging each "treatment" and how things went is probably crucial.

Offline Torvald

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Re: Depression
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2014, 12:31:23 PM »
Incidentally, the so-called "rage to master" is an attributed frequently found in prodigies. Part of hormetism, in my mind, is to be constantly under that frame of mind.

What a great insight! I hadn't heard of "rage to master", so I just googled it. Indeed the things I've enjoyed the most and been most successful at were those I had a "rage to master". I would practice the new skill relentlessly, and every odd bit of life would somehow get checked subconsciously to see if it had something to offer for the skill. For example, when learning to program, I saw every mundane thing as an illustration of principles of search, or interfaces between "objects", etc., and then try to put that principle to work in a program. In that state of mind, I was actually in no hurry to get the skill even though it was building very fast. I was focused entirely on the practice, and good results of all sorts came along as happy side-effects.

A "rage response" is probably the opposite of what I suggested in the previous message as a way to help depression, though. The hurry-up, "beat this mood right now" mindset doesn't seem to help depression. Well, I think one kind of rage response does often stop a depression: a stressful life event that requires immediate response. That knocks the person out of their "mood loop". I think they tend to fall back into depression when it's over, though, suggesting that no hormesis is occurring.

Offline Alex_Myopic

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Re: Depression
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2014, 01:35:57 PM »
Studies have shown that anti-depressant drugs (e.g., prozac) works just as well as placebos (i.e., not better, not less). Despite that, countless doctors still refuse to believe the validity of such studies.

I have seen with my eyes that only after a well known person to me was hospitalized and took anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drugs that he gained his health back. He was in great danger. Herbal pills and other supplements did too little to him and I gave them only until he was convinced to see a psychiatrist.