Resolution, Not Conflict

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Scientific American Misses on the Cause of Depression

A depressive collapse can leave you feeling powerless, self-critical and discouraged. What popped your inner self-confidence balloon however can feel like a mystery. Read More

Good thinking, and a question

Overall, this is a very thoughtful article. It makes a lot more sense than simply ascribing depression to some out of control neurological imbalance in one's brain.

I will say, though, that when the depression continues? Medication can get the sufferer to the place they might be able to hear your message. Otherwise, it may largely go unappreciated.

My question was about this passage, where you wrote..

"If my wife treats me harshly and I give up on trying to change the pattern, I am likely to feel depressed."

Fine. But what if it's...

"If my wife treats me harshly after I made a serious effort to change the pattern, so that didn't help. And then I gave up on trying to change the pattern, and that didn't help. I'm depressed!"

What do you do with these unsolvable life problems? This one is minor to having a spouse come down with a serious chronic illness in his or her 30s, for example.

Excellent question

Harsh, critical and controlling behavior from a spouse for sure can be depressogenic (cause depression).

My recommendation would be that the two of you find a therapist or marriage ed program that teaches you both new ways of communicating. It's a dual role for a spouse to be both teacher and partner. Too hard. Better to find a good third party coach.

Be careful in picking a therapist though. Too many do not have the skill sets themselves for collaborative partnership, so they can't teach the couple.

I do hope that the books or website that I mention on the bottom of this post will help to launch you in a happier direction.

Meanwhile warmest thanks for sharing your excellent question.

drh

Hey, I was asking in general

Hey, I was asking in general. Not personally. I always figured there were three types of problems in the world. That that be solved easily, those that can be solved with difficulty, and those that are unsolvable. The latter ones should be ignored until something changes where they can be solvable. The trick is knowing which problem is in which category. I think the trick fails more often than not.

In the general case...

My apologies for answering in a "you" format. "One" or "folks" may have clarified better that the question you asked and the response I offer fit for the general case.

I love your three types idea. It applies as well to depressions. which I guess are one category of problem. Some depressions that I treat lift in one treatment session, though consolidating the gains may take additional sessions. Some depression lifts gradually with continued efforts to help a client rise up from feeling powerless to regaining a sense of personal empowerment. And some folks' depressions are VERY difficult to overcome.. Fortunately, even those do lift eventually. For these though I take the opposite strategy than ignoring. I hyper-focus on the depression until I can figure out what is going on and how to fix it.

Thanks for clarifying that your question pertained to the general case rather than to you.

drh

I find the psychological

I find the psychological hypothesizing about psychiatric illness antiquated and unconvincing--akin to explaining natural phenomena with myths or creation stories. Explanations that by definition cannot be readily proved or disproven.

My depressive episodes' proximate cause was a disruption in my circadian rhythm, while the underlying causes were dietary. Changed my diet (eliminated gluten, increased fats) and I was suddenly normal, after a decade of extreme suffering. My "negative thought patterns" that kept me trapped in my own home disappeared, almost overnight, without any change in my social environment or relationships. I didn't need CBT. I didn't need to work at my thought patterns. I just gave my brain what it desperately needed.

While this article may be useful for some, and I don't doubt that there are different causes for depression, I think it is all too human to ascribe the source of psychic suffering to things we can see and touch, namely life events, when the cause of phenomenon may be better described by the unseen--cytokines, and auto-antibodies.

I don't buy the "neurotransmitter imbalance" kick---it's a lazy cover for prescription drugs. But I do buy the growing literature on inflammation, autoimmunity and psychiatric illness.

Which is not to say that CBT, mediation, etc. can't be extremely helpful. I just think it's more important to get the diet & environment right first. Then see what's really left to be tackled. It may be a much smaller mountain to climb than you think.

I agree on physiological/allergic triggers

I agree that allergic reactions can come out as depression, and that disrupted circadian rhythm can set off depression, especially in people with bipolar disorder. Darkness or insufficient light during the day can set off SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Thyroid and other physical disorders can also include depression as part of the symptom picture. So I plead guilty for having over-simpified. At the same time, in my clinical practice the vast majority of cases that have come to me have been triggered by giving up in dominant-submissive interactions, either intra-psychic or interpersonal or vis a vis situations.

Thanks for adding a more nuanced explanation, and pushing me to add more, to this post .

drh

I agree on physiological/allergic triggers

I agree that allergic reactions can come out as depression, and that disrupted circadian rhythm can set off depression, especially in people with bipolar disorder. Darkness or insufficient light during the day can set off SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Thyroid and other physical disorders can also include depression as part of the symptom picture. So I plead guilty for having over-simpified. At the same time, in my clinical practice the vast majority of cases that have come to me have been triggered by giving up in dominant-submissive interactions, either intra-psychic or interpersonal or vis a vis situations.

Thanks for adding a more nuanced explanation, and pushing me to add more, to this post .

drh

I agree on physiological/allergic triggers

I agree that allergic reactions can come out as depression, and that disrupted circadian rhythm can set off depression, especially in people with bipolar disorder. Darkness or insufficient light during the day can set off SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Thyroid and other physical disorders can also include depression as part of the symptom picture. So I plead guilty for having over-simpified. At the same time, in my clinical practice the vast majority of cases that have come to me have been triggered by giving up in dominant-submissive interactions, either intra-psychic or interpersonal or vis a vis situations.

Thanks for adding a more nuanced explanation, and pushing me to add more, to this post .

drh

I agree on physiological/allergic triggers

I agree that allergic reactions can come out as depression, and that disrupted circadian rhythm can set off depression, especially in people with bipolar disorder. Darkness or insufficient light during the day can set off SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Thyroid and other physical disorders can also include depression as part of the symptom picture. So I plead guilty for having over-simpified. At the same time, in my clinical practice the vast majority of cases that have come to me have been triggered by giving up in dominant-submissive interactions, either intra-psychic or interpersonal or vis a vis situations.

Thanks for adding a more nuanced explanation, and pushing me to add more, to this post .

drh

I agree on physiological/allergic triggers

I agree that allergic reactions can come out as depression, and that disrupted circadian rhythm can set off depression, especially in people with bipolar disorder. Darkness or insufficient light during the day can set off SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Thyroid and other physical disorders can also include depression as part of the symptom picture. So I plead guilty for having over-simpified. At the same time, in my clinical practice the vast majority of cases that have come to me have been triggered by giving up in dominant-submissive interactions, either intra-psychic or interpersonal or vis a vis situations.

Thanks for adding a more nuanced explanation, and pushing me to add more, to this post .

drh

I agree on physiological/allergic triggers

I agree that allergic reactions can come out as depression, and that disrupted circadian rhythm can set off depression, especially in people with bipolar disorder. Darkness or insufficient light during the day can set off SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Thyroid and other physical disorders can also include depression as part of the symptom picture. So I plead guilty for having over-simpified. At the same time, in my clinical practice the vast majority of cases that have come to me have been triggered by giving up in dominant-submissive interactions, either intra-psychic or interpersonal or vis a vis situations.

Thanks for adding a more nuanced explanation, and pushing me to add more, to this post .

drh

I agree on physiological/allergic triggers

I agree that allergic reactions can come out as depression, and that disrupted circadian rhythm can set off depression, especially in people with bipolar disorder. Darkness or insufficient light during the day can set off SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Thyroid and other physical disorders can also include depression as part of the symptom picture. So I plead guilty for having over-simpified. At the same time, in my clinical practice the vast majority of cases that have come to me have been triggered by giving up in dominant-submissive interactions, either intra-psychic or interpersonal or vis a vis situations.

Thanks for adding a more nuanced explanation, and pushing me to add more, to this post .

drh

I agree on physiological/allergic triggers

I agree that allergic reactions can come out as depression, and that disrupted circadian rhythm can set off depression, especially in people with bipolar disorder. Darkness or insufficient light during the day can set off SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Thyroid and other physical disorders can also include depression as part of the symptom picture. So I plead guilty for having over-simpified. At the same time, in my clinical practice the vast majority of cases that have come to me have been triggered by giving up in dominant-submissive interactions, either intra-psychic or interpersonal or vis a vis situations.

Thanks for adding a more nuanced explanation, and pushing me to add more, to this post .

drh

I agree on physiological/allergic triggers

I agree that allergic reactions can come out as depression, and that disrupted circadian rhythm can set off depression, especially in people with bipolar disorder. Darkness or insufficient light during the day can set off SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Thyroid and other physical disorders can also include depression as part of the symptom picture. So I plead guilty for having over-simpified. At the same time, in my clinical practice the vast majority of cases that have come to me have been triggered by giving up in dominant-submissive interactions, either intra-psychic or interpersonal or vis a vis situations.

Thanks for adding a more nuanced explanation, and pushing me to add more, to this post .

drh

I agree on physiological/allergic triggers

I agree that allergic reactions can come out as depression, and that disrupted circadian rhythm can set off depression, especially in people with bipolar disorder. Darkness or insufficient light during the day can set off SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Thyroid and other physical disorders can also include depression as part of the symptom picture. So I plead guilty for having over-simpified. At the same time, in my clinical practice the vast majority of cases that have come to me have been triggered by giving up in dominant-submissive interactions, either intra-psychic or interpersonal or vis a vis situations.

Thanks for adding a more nuanced explanation, and pushing me to add more, to this post .

drh

My apologies for the multiple repetitions above.

I can't figure out how to delete them, alas...
drh

Evolutionary psychology.

The dominant - submissive interaction is interesting - some evolutionary psychologists postulate that depression was an adaptation to slavery(Slavery being a common state in earlier times and few escaped slaves survived very long).

yes, witness the melancholy "blues" sound

The music of many oppressed people has a characteristic minor-key sadness to it...
Thanks for this astute observation about how whole groups of people in oppressive circumstances are likely to share depressed feelings...and to survive by not trying to fight back ...

drh

Cause and Effect

This is one of the smartest article that I have read on here. Congratulations!

The rise in depression in our society is positively correlated with the dominant/submissive roles -- it's the main cause of depression and main cause of most problems in the world! This really points out and highlights the fact that there is a large increase in psychopathic traits/genes being passed on and taking hold of people at all levels of society -- schools, government, workplaces, families....

Psychopaths are happier people (than those they dominate)...despite having highly anti-social make-up. Highly verbal people are often the most anti-social. They are the loudest and most aggressive. You can never win an argument with them because they will talk over you and shout over you.

If they perceive you as having "lower status" (ie. ugly, fat, "negative"/"NO", poor, shy, AND smart etc) they become incredibly adversarial.

Their goal is to use people to get ahead. Psychopaths only socialize with people who can raise their status and promote them (the rest have leprosy or something). Business experts often advocate this method of networking; we can partially thank them for the increase of psychopaths in the workplace. Children often take cues from parents.

Has there been an increase

Has there been an increase just because of this as women, slaves and servants have been oppressed for thousands of years.

That's a fascinating question.

I wish I had a clear answer. What I have is just hypotheses:

1. Women took their lower power status as a given, like a person now might take a health problem, and therefore did not feel depressed about it. Low status was just a fact of life, so it didn't in itself cause depression.

2. Women maybe did often feel depressed, as they so often were unable to get what they wanted.

3. Women have always found ways to get around the official power status.

I'd be interested in others' ideas....

Or maybe they accepted

Or maybe they accepted depression as "normal". My father would say he had the black dog, just like Lincoln, Churchill and Job (of the biblical Book of Job). When I started to get the same symptoms as a teenager I just thought of it as a natural "state of being" that some people went through when life was being tough. It was not until doing my degree that I learnt I had something 'worthy' of a diagnosis.

Yes!

I love your examples of your father and of your reaction also to what we'd clinically label depression.
I hope the availability of information about, and of a label for, these feelings leads to people getting through depression now more rapidly....

Thanks for sharing-
drh

Let's add narcissists and hypomanic folks

I agree with you. Folks who have higher energy or for whatever reason tend to dominate probably are less likely to feel depressed, at least until they have met their match and someone trumps or ditches them. Even then though they tend to recover quickly by moving on to the next conquest....

Warmest thanks sharing for your observations, and also for your appreciation of the theory in this article.

drh

Indeed I have heard an Indian

Indeed I have heard an Indian suicidologist say she thought the increase in suicide in her region (Southern India) was because the young people now knew what they were missing out on.
In contrast, a psychiatrist at the Irish Inquiry into suicide, said he didn't understand as, now that the young people had everything, there were more suiciding (the Inquiry was before the GFC). I realize there is more to an increase in suicide than depression alone.

fascinating...

Yes, if young people didn't know what they were missing out on, there is no sense of submission or defeat.

Fascinating unintended consequence of the information revolution...alas..

drh

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Susan Heitler, Ph.D., is the author of many books, including From Conflict to Resolution and The Power of Two. She is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University.

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