Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Depression Suggestion

Yesterday I felt somewhat depressed. I had woken up with pretty intense pain - maybe a 5 or 6, which for me is above my normal 3 or 4. My thoughts also had begun to turn towards the impending return to school, the pressures of my boss and the daunting prospects of teaching something almost completely new. And my mood was altered.

I realized a common issue I agonize over when depressed is what might be "causing" it. I inevitably have been dwelling on some element of present dissatisfaction. These generally fall into the categories of neck pain, interpersonal or professional troubles. The neck pain I have generally come to understand as beyond my control - despite the poisonous notion in various circles that the original source of the pain is psycho-dynamic dissonance, its remedy being of course intensive self-reflection and scrutiny. (This is utter nonsense. While psycho-dynamics do exist, they only contribute to overall stress, which in turn exacerbates an underlying physical condition. The idea that they are themselves the root cause of physical pain is a deeply distressing invalidation.) To the extent that the physical pain promotes the depressed mood, I must simply carry on and make my peace with it.

And yet the interpersonal and professional troubles are not - in theory - beyond my control. There are legitimate concerns that, were they to be properly addressed, could cease to be a source of continued stress. The trouble is that in a depressive state, legitimate concerns become obscured by illegitimate ones. Perseveration is a frequent symptom.

Something interesting to note regarding the depressive mood is that it mirrors the mood that accompanies genuine loss. As with other disorders, such as anxiety, it may be true that the mind confuses a physiological reaction with a mental one. For instance, it is said that symptoms of anxiety such as sweating, rapid breathing, quickened pulse can actually trigger the onset of an attack, as if the mind associates these feelings with panic, follows its own fear of panic into real panic. With depression, could it be that the mind interprets the physiological experience of depression, similar as it is to a genuine state of loss, as requiring "justification", and thus inventing mental activities to recreate a similar experience. So while the body feels as if a loved one has just died, in reality there is no real mental anguish. Thus it is invented to create the illusion of unity between body and mind.

Unfortunately there often are reasons to experience some level of mental anguish. And frequently they are in fact the original stressors. Yet the problem is the degree to which they justify reasonable levels of anguish. While one may be justified in worrying about an upcoming job interview as it is important and performance is critical, feelings of depression would not be appropriate. And yet if this normal stress induces a depressive state, the mind is then faced with the cognitive dissonance of events not matching physiology, and introduces a sort of synthetic anguish. In this state, the rectification of causes for worry (Yes, I am qualified; No, they will not think I am too slovenly) will almost certainly not alleviate the depression. And so the mind often becomes even more determined to find some explanation for the mood, and turns up the volume, escalating the conflict.

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