Sunday, February 10, 2013

Depression: A beneficial defense mechanism?

In this week’s reading, a discussion on depression as being an adaptation that could benefit as a defense mechanism was highlighted. Most people tend to associate severe states of sadness as depression and casually use the term “Depressed” to cover the large range of these states even though it may not be the same. As a college student that is always stressed out and worrying over grades/classes/family situations, all those feelings tend to get overwhelming and either myself or those around me will automatically believe that I’m depressed when I have no motivation to do anything. Having also grown up in an environment where depression was common, I saw only the negative aspects to it which is why I was surprised to read that it could serve as a beneficial mechanism to a certain extent.
According to Nesse, having a low mood will “increase an organisms ability to cope with the adaptive challenges characteristic of unpropitious situations in which effort to pursue a major goal will likely result in danger, loss, bodily damage, or wasted effort”(1).
This reminds me of an article that I read in Scientific American by Paul W. Andrews. He discusses
the evolutionary roots to depression and the belief that perhaps depression's consequential analytic style of thought could lead to productivity. By placing barriers to what your brain perceives as interruptions to your analysis, you are placing more emphasis on what’s important and potentially solving the problem better. This can also be a negative thing, because most depressed people over think their problems and fall into an even deeper depression by over analyzing everything so it’s hard to try and decide whether or not depression may be as beneficial.
I appreciated that towards the end of the article in SA, the author suggests a possible solution to the growing problem by explaining that therapies that are trying to fix depression in hopes of ending it should instead try to help the depressed person figure out their problems and solving it rather than prescribe medication to temporarily relieve the person of depression which would agree with Nesse’s perspective on the issue. Nesse states that, “the benefits of cognitive therapy should be mediated not just by correcting negative distortions, but more specifically by increasing the person’s expectations of the effectiveness of future actions” which would contribute to the person not having so many bouts of depression. (5)
The best way I felt to conclude this post was with a quote of Andrews, “Depression is nature’s way of telling you that you've got complex social problems that the mind is intent on solving” even if it means sacrificing a few vital functions to survival.

1 comment:

  1. I think that you analysis of the piece was very well presented. The article that you cited from Scientific American was very interesting, and it made me think of how many interpretation there are about the adaptive defense mechanism. According to what you stated by Andrews, he believed that depression is a mechanism that one’s brain enacts so it can process difficulties in one’s life. This got me think about what Ness had to say about “the role of depression in disengaging motivation from and unreachable goals” (16).

    In this case the role of depression would not be motivating the person to solve a problem, but rather it discourages the person from trying to do so. These points seem to be rather contradictory in their nature on the surface of things, and so it made me rethink my understanding of the reading. Now after rereading the sections and your thoughts on the reading, I believe that in away these are both related to goal accomplishment.

    The first act of depression that you describe is a response to a trauma and the depression sets in to help one understand what happened and move on in a health manner (Unless of course one over think it and delve further into this depression, but for the time being I shall gloss over this possibility).

    The second act of depression is enacted to discourage someone from pursuing unrealistic goals. When one gives up on the goal, according the reading, they shall not experience the depression anymore.

    In both cases the depression seems to be the thing that is supposed to get the person back on the proper course for their life. Perhaps it just needs more time to finished developing until the process can work correctly without people becoming further depressed.