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Medicine Science

Depression May Provide Cognitive Advantages 512

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the see-it's-an-advantage dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Paul W. Andrews and J. Anderson Thomson, Jr. argue in Scientific American that although depression is considered a mental disorder, depression may in fact be a mental adaptation which provides real benefits. This is not to say that depression is not a problem. Depressed people often have trouble performing everyday activities, they can't concentrate on their work, they tend to socially isolate themselves, they are lethargic, and they often lose the ability to take pleasure from such activities such as eating and sex. So what could be so useful about depression? 'Depressed people often think intensely about their problems,' write the authors. 'These thoughts are called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this thinking style is often highly analytical. They dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time.' Various studies have found that people in depressed mood states are better at solving social dilemmas and there is evidence that people who get more depressed while they are working on complex problems in an intelligence test tend to score higher on the test (PDF). 'When one considers all the evidence, depression seems less like a disorder where the brain is operating in a haphazard way, or malfunctioning. Instead, depression seems more like the vertebrate eye — an intricate, highly organized piece of machinery that performs a specific function.'"
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Depression May Provide Cognitive Advantages

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  • by mach1980 (1114097) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:57AM (#29215329)
    You just have to think about marvin the paranoid android...
  • by Akido37 (1473009) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:57AM (#29215337)
    I'm going to have to think about this...
    • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:16AM (#29215593)
      Yeah, it's fucking great for me. Great till one day I end up failing to find a solution to the shit that's going on.

      Yes, I am very intelligent. I am very successful in my career. I have a lot of people telling me how they would love to swap positions. I can tell you that for every person that I meet who is dumb and unsuccessful, yet happy in their lives, I would swap places in an instant.

      I got asked once, if I would prefer to live intelligently in a prison knowing I was in one, or stupidly in the same place not knowing what it was. I would choose the latter.

      Have a read of some of my musings and art to see some of my side of the coin:
      Normal [deviantart.com]
      Two Little Boys [deviantart.com]
      Positive and Negative [deviantart.com]
      and finally Depression [deviantart.com] the file in my sig.

      For the record I am bipolar (Manic Depressive in old terminology).
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Some people deliberately refuse to solve their problems since they've come to rely on the depression to help them with things like art and music. Solving the problems and removing the depression would be the end to the stream of creativity they've become accustomed to. It's not very different than an alcoholic refusing to get sober because they would have to re-learn how to live life since so many things would change.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:30AM (#29215763)
        Do you keep a journal on DeviantArt because you're depressed, or are you depressed because you keep a journal on DeviantArt? Eh? Eh?

        I think we've made a breakthrough.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Eat well, and realise that your mind lies to you about how bad things truly are.

        That's how I get by.

        Besides, the roller-coaster ride can be quite fun. Even when careening down the spiral I somehow take some joy from this. Maybe it's that I realise my mood bears no likeness to reality.

        Life is about the experience. Enjoy every dirty, awful bit of it. :D

        • by gnick (1211984) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @12:09PM (#29218143) Homepage

          Life is about the experience. Enjoy every dirty, awful bit of it.

          Thanks for that. I've heard many times people saying that they'd like to die quietly in their sleep without ever seeing it coming and I just don't get it. The ugly parts of life are still life. I don't enjoy pain, but in my view death is the end of life (chuckle all you want - many people disagree). And it's the only thing that we all share. I'd like to see it coming and, avoiding years of agony, a few days of despair and slipping away seem interesting. Sorry, morbid.

          Life is what it is - Work to make it as good as you can, but embrace it all. Even the awful stuff.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by trvd1707 (793036)

        I got asked once, if I would prefer to live intelligently in a prison knowing I was in one, or stupidly in the same place not knowing what it was. I would choose the latter.

        Well, I guess a dumb person wouldn't know how to answer this question because it's way too complex. Or it really doesn't matter, since you would be in a prison anyway.

      • by karmatic (776420) * on Thursday August 27, 2009 @02:32PM (#29220351)

        Yes, I am very intelligent. I am very successful in my career. I have a lot of people telling me how they would love to swap positions. I can tell you that for every person that I meet who is dumb and unsuccessful, yet happy in their lives, I would swap places in an instant.

        Last year, and almost all my life before that, I was in the same position.

        On paper, my life was great - phenomenal test scores, CTO and one of the founders of a successful software company, good income, attending Harvard, etc. Tall, attractive, etc.

        And yet, my life was hell. Many emotions (love, empathy, grief, joy) were literally missing. I had family, pets, etc. die - I felt nothing, so I watched others and emulated them, lest people think I was callous. I didn't want them to see that I was empty inside - filled with only anger, hate, jealousy, etc.

        I was rather sociopathic - it made me a great salesperson, and a very lousy human being. I didn't date, I had only 1 long-term friend. In many ways, he was more screwed up than I.

        The irony is that ultimately it was my suicide plans that saved me.

        I had decided to end my life, and to ensure I would not be screwing over my family (who I was supporting), I decided to get insurance, and stage an accident. Yes, I am aware this is fraud - I was not right in the head. The fact I'm typing this is a pretty good indication I didn't go through witih it.

        As part of the insurance process, they did blood analysis. This caught that my cholesterol levels were extremely low.

        Further investigation showed that my body does not properly produce cholesterol, and that it messed up my hormonal levels - horribly.

        I now chug heavy whipping cream at night, and take hormonal replacement. The depression is gone, and I am a generally happy human being.

        When I do what I feel is right, I enjoy it - when I hurt others, or do what I feel is wrong, I feel bad. It's a very profound feeling for someone who has never felt that before. I went on my first date - I never imagined that being with someone in a social situation could feel so good.

        We are chemical beings, running on chemical processes. As we get a better understanding of the brain, how things work - more and more people are finding things that can help. I hope, I sincerely do, that you are able to find your answers, and soon.

  • Reverse causation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:57AM (#29215339)

    You have higher cognitive ability, you realize how the world runs, you get depressed. Not the other way 'round.

    • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:04AM (#29215405) Homepage Journal

      I agree with this. In terms of getting pure enjoyment and satisfaction out of life I think it's much better be a little dim and therefore not be able to see all the problems. I see a ton of people like this in my day to day work and since they have a narrower view of the world (who knows if this is actually less intelligence or not though I often interpret it that way) they are much happier. They have their huge house, they love mowing their yard, they have a cusshy job doing very little somewhere, everything is OK with them so the world must be great. (Too bad they are also the ones in charge most of the time.)

      • by mh1997 (1065630) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:12AM (#29215535)

        I see a ton of people like this in my day to day work and since they have a narrower view of the world (who knows if this is actually less intelligence or not though I often interpret it that way) they are much happier.

        I agree! Last time we met, I was thinking that I wish I were as dumb as you. Sure, you're smarter than a lot of people (and therefore moderately happy) but if I had your meager intelligence, I would be so much happier than I am now.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by thesandtiger (819476)

        Truly smart people don't see problems as something to get depressed about but as things to be understood and solved, subverted or worked around, and they enjoy doing it because it's play.

    • Re:Reverse causation (Score:5, Informative)

      by McNihil (612243) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:05AM (#29215417)
    • by NekoXP (67564) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:19AM (#29215631) Homepage

      I don't agree.

      "Realizing how the world runs" should not make you depressed. It's actually very easy to get through life with clinical depression without worrying about what George W. Bush did, about terrorists, about capitalism, about DRM and other things Slashdot readers get huffy about, because you're usually more often than not mired in some personal difficulty, not something about how the world "runs". This is from experience.

      I must say the whole analytical breaking down things in to small chunks fits MY worldview. But I don't concern myself with bigger world issues; not that I don't care, but they just don't affect me. Part of dealing with depression is picking what to be depressed about. And if you're spending all your time having anxiety attacks and downward slumps and moody funks about what a politician is doing in another state, or who is suing who for patent rights, or the state of Somalia, you are going to have far more personal problems hit you in the ass later on than you can probably deal with adequately.

      • Re:Reverse causation (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:15AM (#29216475)

        What's depressing about those events, from stricter copyright and anti-terror laws cutting away our freedoms to economic downturn and politicians spinning 'solutions' to it that are none but make just them and their cronies richer, is that you sit there, you know it's going to hit the wall and you're utterly helpless against the collective ignorance that allows it to happen. It's like watching a train ablaze on fire running at full speed and without a conductor straight for a cliff with people singing inside. You know they're doomed, you know they'll meat a fiery and unpleasant grave, you may even be on the train, but you can't do anything about it. You can only sit there and either muse over the stupidity of humanity or join in the party.

        Things that affect me, locally, I can usually change. They don't make me depressed, they make me active, if anything. It's not depressing when it's within your power to avoid a catastrophe. It's actually quite compelling to get off your butt and DO something.

        It's depressing when you know that you're utterly powerless against it.

        • by LihTox (754597) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:50PM (#29225105)

          Things that affect me, locally, I can usually change. They don't make me depressed, they make me active, if anything. It's not depressing when it's within your power to avoid a catastrophe. It's actually quite compelling to get off your butt and DO something.

          Then you're not clinically depressed. Depressed people aren't necessarily upset about the world, they're upset because they can't get themselves out of the house in the morning, because they find no pleasure in anything they used to enjoy. Clinical depression IS about the small, local stuff.

          Not to belittle your anxieties-- I hope they aren't debilitating-- but I think you've got the wrong diagnosis.

    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:23AM (#29215681)

      That's what we *used to* think. This research suggests that we were in fact incorrect.

      Correlation and causation are difficult to disentangle, and I'm usually the first to point out what you did. But this research is specifically into temporary advantages, not actual intelligence boosting.

      The idea is you shut everything out, except for what you're trying to solve - putting the blinders on, so to speak. You get no pleasure from nor have desire for things which might distract you from the issue at hand.

      It's not an intelligence boost, just a way of coping with a problem. Usually its' several problems, my opinion creeping in. Too much to do, too much stress, and the mind revolts and says "one thing at a time, my friend".

      • Re:Reverse causation (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Blue Stone (582566) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:43AM (#29216863) Homepage Journal

        >It's not an intelligence boost, just a way of coping with a problem.

        In other words: it's focus. The equivalent of a retreat - buggering off to some cave to contemplate the mysteries of life - why it's so unpleasant, etc. because you NEED to come to some sort of understanding of whatever it is that's going on with your life in order to move on.

        It's a koan - a spiritual dilemma which MUST be surmounted/resolved/transcended before ANYTHING else can be done, before life can go on.

        A crisis, which requires intense contemplation to the exclusion of all else. Which isn't strictly true, because a healthy balance is needed to resolve any issue: forgetting the problem, gaining new experiences, doing thing entirely unrelated.

        I've suffered from depression and despite all my intense contemplation of why and what was going on that was causing me to be depressed, additional diverse experiences, exposure to differing thinking, seeming unconnected phenomena was crucial in gaining any insight - as was just forgetting about things for a bit. Usually answers came quite unexpectedly when the issue was entirely out of mind. Of course, the focus was necessary, but so was the letting go.

        These days I try to avoid deep intense analytical thought - and I think I have more insight. Analytical thought can only take you so far - at a certain point you're merely re-arranging the furniture, where what you need is creativity and insight. The trick I think is to recognice the limitations of each and apply them appropriately. And in all things, apply balance.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by damburger (981828)
      Perhaps, but like beer intellect is a solution as well as a problem; the sublime joys of a persons chosen intellectual endeavor blows blissful ignorance out of the fucking water. Exasperation at the absurdity and comparative stupidity of the world simply provides the higher ability person with contrast.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      The trouble with clinical depression is that it makes its victims miserable. So miserable that they often turn to drugs (whether prescription or illegal) or alcohol. My friend Amy, a hardcore alcoholic (in treatment for her alcoholism right now) was almost thirty before she started drinking, but had suffered from depression almost all her life.

      Considering what she's told me about her upbringing, It's no wonder she suffers from depression.

      Interestingly, though, when I was prescribed Paxil for adjustment diso [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:Reverse causation (Score:5, Interesting)

      by owlnation (858981) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:13AM (#29216447)

      You have higher cognitive ability, you realize how the world runs, you get depressed. Not the other way 'round.

      I think that's true. It's a Doestoevskian state really. The problem with depression isn't depression, it's dealing with the idiots that aren't depressed.

      I often wonder if it's the depressed people that are the sane ones and that it's the "sane" majority who are really crazy.

      Which leads me to the fact that depression is improperly handled by medicine, by society, and economics too. Depressed people don't necessarily need medication nor counseling, what they really need is a whole other system of society away from the people who seem to enjoy "normal" things.

      Things like work life balance, 9-5, utility bills, banking rules, corporate hierarchy, living to work, etc will never work for anyone with higher cognitive function. There is no meaning in having a job like that, or living like that. Being a drone does not advance society.

      Many depressed people have the skills to change and develop society for the advancement of all. Using the current techniques to force a depressed person to stop being depressed and "fit-in", is actually potentially a bad thing for the species in my opinion.

      However...that said, the depressed are dangerous to those who want to maintain the status quo and exploit society. Which may well be the reason that it's easier for society to try keep them medicated and out of the way. Melancholia was actually an admired quality in previous centuries. It's only in the industrial age that it's been frowned upon.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ajlisows (768780)

        I wouldn't say that "Things like work life balance, 9-5, utility bills, banking rules, corporate hierarchy, living to work, etc will never work for anyone with higher cognitive function." I myself have tested out several times on IQ tests at the top end of "Genius" (For whatever that is worth...I know I'm bright but I don't know how much stock I put into the IQ numbers) and struggle with those things. My brain simply doesn't work 9-5. It works when it works and I have little control over it. I do consul

  • old news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:57AM (#29215343) Homepage Journal

    I am lazy and I did a quick google and couldn't find a link...

    However, I remember reading about a study in my college Psychology class that pointed to the fact that people depressed actually have a *clearer* view of reality when compared to the non-depressed. It's a rose colored glasses type of effect. When given questions about certain situations, clinically depressed persons tended to give more answers that matched up with the real-world reality of situations than the non-depressed.

    In other words the world is shit I am justified in being depressed all the time.

    • Re:old news (Score:5, Informative)

      by alexhs (877055) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:05AM (#29215419) Homepage Journal

      Here [wikipedia.org] is a link (pointing to studies).

    • by h4rm0ny (722443)

      This doesn't relate to clinical depression, but just personal development. But I think people can start out happy and unaware, and then when they become more aware, become dissatisfied with mundane accomplishments, whatever, then it knocks their happiness out of kilter. And there they get stuck. But becoming more aware is a necessary step in one's development. The trick is to get to the stage beyond that which is aware and happy. That usually comes about through action on the things you've become aware of
    • Re:old news (Score:4, Interesting)

      by howlinmonkey (548055) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:22AM (#29215667)
      I have read similar studies and find that amazing when considered in the light of the fact that successful people tend to be more optimistic. So, seeing a "clearer view of reality" doesn't seem to confer any advantages. I lean toward the view that intelligent people are more depressed because of the fact that they see reality more clearly.
      • Re:old news (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:55AM (#29216133) Journal
        I suspect that whether or not a clearer view of reality confers an advantage depends in large part on the circumstances, mostly the cost of failure vs. possible success.

        In a system with debtor's prisons, being optimistic about your small business plan is probably a stupid idea. In a system with comparatively mild bankruptcy terms, and relatively easy incorporation, optimism may well be a very lucrative virtue. In some clannish honor-bound society, being optimistic about your chances with a possible sexual partner could get you killed. In a bar full of strangers in the modern west, the potential downsides are pretty low(assuming social rejection doesn't bother you).

        Broadly, depending on the prevailing ratio between possible downsides/worst case scenarios and possible upsides/best case scenarios, a delusionally positive perspective could be highly adaptive, or swiftly lethal, or somewhere in between. A delusionally negative perspective could be as well, in principle.
      • by Mprx (82435)
        Optimism leaves you more affected by events out of your control. Some of those optimists will be lucky and end up successful, and some will not. If you only look at the successful people you might think optimism causes success, but that's because you didn't notice those for whom optimism didn't work out.
  • by pHus10n (1443071) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:02AM (#29215373)
    ... I'm all depressed and thought I would come to Slashdot and read some funny comments. That'll cheer me up, right? No one RTFA? Snarky posts for +5 Funny? All I found was an article reminding me how god damned depressed I am.
  • Wound up too tight. Depth first focus. Not a surprising finding IMHO.

    Coffee helps to make sure that the depth of focus is not too deep where one hits the bottom (depression, with extremely single minded and obsessive thinking.) A little chaos is actually a good thing (tm).

  • wait... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    if you are better at solving your problems when you are depressed, how come depressed people commit suicide when they are faced with problems?

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:02AM (#29215381) Homepage Journal

    I find it much more difficult to think logically about my own emotional problems when I am depressed. In that state, introspection is likely to lead to more depression. That's why it's referred to as a vicious cycle — depression is depressing! So it might be easier to figure out other people's problems but I'm skeptical that it actually leads to solutions to one's own social problems. Then again, perhaps that's just because I'm personally poorly socialized.

    • Sounds like you're trying to avoid solving the problems that are causing you to be depressed in the first place. Having gotten through a pretty serious depression not long ago, I finally see how things ended up as they did and why my life was so reclusive. All the way back to how childhood experiences affected me.

      Still doesn't fill the emptiness. 3 years of effort at socializing and all I got was this depression. ^_^
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Still doesn't fill the emptiness. 3 years of effort at socializing and all I got was this depression. ^_^

        Well, what's really missing from the modern existence most people lead is a real connection, with anyone. I think this is mostly because we aren't forced to get along with the people in our village any more. It has become a valid option to just move. Writ large enough this means no problem will ever get solved. We just keep moving. Devastate one continent, and populate the next. Too bad we're out of those...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I find it much more difficult to think logically about my own emotional problems when I am depressed.

      My emphasis is added there... because I think it's true. I think though the argument that seems to be made here is that you can think better analytically. I know as much as I have tried through my years of depression to think an emotional problem through analytically it has never worked.

      Again.. Depression is not a good thing to have no matter what any study says. Just because it can give you a slight advantage in one area of life doesn't mean it gives you a major disadvantage in another area (or with Dep

      • Stupid double negative. Depression can give you a slight advantage in one area of life... but it also causes major disadvantages in many other areas of your life. That's what I meant.

    • A very good friend committed to suicide due to depression some 20 years ago at 25 years old, for almost exactly that reason, he wrote he could not break what he called "the circle".

      He was an whiz programmer, worked for defense dept as a research scientist.

      I will never forget his first PC. All hand built, including keyboard of individual switches hard wired and a wooden case. Wrote his own OS in machine code at 17. Of course nobody had even heard of a mouse back then.

      He would have loved Slashdot

      Great musicia

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A trait that confers resistance to malaria when you get both or one of the dominate forms of hemoglobin from your parents, but you get screwed if you get both recessive genes. The odds get better for the majority of combinations, but one particular outcome is worse.

    Maybe natural selection is selecting for more analitical thinking in most combinations of parental genes, but the group that gets all the recessives ends up with depression.

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:03AM (#29215401)

    Depresses the hell out of me.

  • If I were able to perform this intricate and highly adapted function and also handle the slightest daily stresses.
  • woo hoo! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chapter80 (926879) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:05AM (#29215415)

    Depression May Provide Cognitive Advantages

    I've been struggling with a real tough problem, and getting more and more depressed.
    Now I read this, and I have hope of solving it! woo hoo!

    I can't tell you how happy I am!

    wait....

  • Yup, the Mensa test was depressing. I passed, of course.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tsstahl (812393)
      As opposed to the emotional effect of failing when you thought you'd blow right through it? :)
  • by LaminatorX (410794) <sabotage@NoSpAm.praecantator.com> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:06AM (#29215437) Homepage

    Most mental disorders are a result of an otherwise normal or useful mental process run-amok. Happiness and energy are good, but take them too far and you've got mania. Organization and hygine are good, but take them too far and you get OCD. Depression when half your family just died in a car wreck and your life is in turmoil is a normal part of coping, depression all the time when nothing is particularly wrong is a disease.

  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:06AM (#29215439)

    Give it a couple of years and it will be referred to as our "Outlook Orientation," and the government will commission a study to see if depressed people are being properly represented in grade school textbooks.

  • What about suicide (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Spy Handler (822350) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:08AM (#29215461) Homepage Journal
    seems to me like any survival advantage offered by this would be completely wiped out by the fact that depressed people kill themselves hell of a lot more than non-depressed people.
    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:32AM (#29215795)

      When the body adapts to challenges, but you don't change anything and don't solve the problems the body has adapted to, the brain's functions go haywire.

      So this research says you have a problem, or several problems. Instead of using depression to advantage and actually resolving things, people tend to distract themselves with TV and alcohol or other drugs. They even take antidepressants, which make them feel they don't have to change anything at all.

      Eventually the brain can't cope, and it basically says "HEY, I'M TRYING TO HELP YOU, PLEASE LISTEN" and then it just gets frustrated and gives up. That could be why you have "cry for help" suicide attempts with depressed people, instead of actual success.

      Yes they do kill themselves, but in a world without plentiful and available alcohol, and without TV, and other distractions, it could help you focus on the problem at hand. Remember, survival advantage is usually measured on an organism and its natural environment - abnormal environments yield abnormal behaviour.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by nulldaemon (926551)

        They even take antidepressants, which make them feel they don't have to change anything at all..

        Well anti-depressants, if prescribed properly, do the exact opposite. They enable people to change their environment and break the vicious cycle of depression.

        I'll give you the example of someone who, due to their depressive state, is incapable of leaving the house. Without going in to much detail, this will make their depression worse. Give that same person some anti-depressants and they might feel good enough to leave the house, make new friends and create a positive reinforcing cycle. By the time the we

        • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

          My point was, back in the day they wouldn't have the option to "not leave their house". If you read my comment again, hopefully you will see it as a comment on man's natural state. In the modern world, we do have things like alcohol and staying in the house, and absolutely medications can help when a person is not capable of escaping those distractions.

    • Intelligence is only a survival advantage to a certain point...Once you're smart enough to out-think the predators, find the good woman, and get the high status position, all the rest of your brain power is effectively geared toward stuff that's not relevant for survival.

      Look at words that commonly get linked to genius: evil, mad, tortured, insanity (as in "There is a fine line between...". Ever see "happy genius"? "Well adjusted genius"? Not saying it doesn't happen, but it's the exception.

      I've seen studie

  • I guess the fact that "Ignorance Is Bliss" is a saying, kind of implies that people always knew this.
  • Well doh (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kjella (173770) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:12AM (#29215537) Homepage

    Honestly, we all know that there are things like "taking things too seriously" and "taking things too lightly". Depression isn't there as a cruel joke to make miserable people more miserable, it's to make sure that in a grave situation you take a honest look at the situation and deal with it. It's a natural self-defense mechanism that for example you probably wouldn't want to have sex, get pregnant and have a child in a bad situation, being a leftover from before contraception. Of course some people get too much of it, just like others want to cuddle the cute grizzly bear and don't see a problem until they make a Darwin award of themselves. Very few aspects of typical human behavior is really that irrational, though it can be really out of place in the modern world.

  • I read this somewhere over a month ago.
  • Makes sense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gte275e (91656)

    This article pretty much describes me to a T. I have been suffering from depression for a few years now and whenever I get down, I definitely have the thinking patterns that was described in this post. However, after going through depression, I have decided that it is much, much better to be ignorant and happy than depressed and realistic.

  • by dunkelfalke (91624) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:23AM (#29215685)

    While depressive people tend to consider a problem very intensely and break it into lots of sub-problems and try to analyze what could have happened if some options were different, all those - ruminations (as the summary states) - still lead to nothing because the all the shit has already hit the fan and there is nothing that can undone that. so the thoughts go round and round and round again.

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:24AM (#29215695)

    But chronic pain is not so wonderful.

    Having an immune system is also beneficial to survival. Multiple sclerosis, not so great.

  • Sweet (Score:4, Funny)

    by imgod2u (812837) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:31AM (#29215775) Homepage

    Nobel prize, here I come.

  • by malkavian (9512) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:32AM (#29215803) Homepage

    This is basically where people who are prone to depression have markedly less influence by illusiory conditions. They view the world as it is, without the rose tinted spectacles of the non-depressed.
    This gives a general predisposition towards problem solving and accurate assessment of situations, allowing the excision of the personal investment in problems, treating the problem as a more logical construct, which overall leads to better problem solving (which has been researched since the late 70s and 80s).

    However, depression being what it is, it doesn't make life around a depressed person any easier, and isn't that great for the depressed person themselves (I speak as one that's prone to that state of mind and have to be a little careful from time to time; it does make things in my favourite field of IT Business Continuity seem somewhat easier than it does for most though, with me jokingly being accused of having enough paranoia for the whole hospital).
    The trouble with "Depressive Realism" is that it's not entirely evident whether it's the realistic state of mind that brings about depression (having trouble with the normal chit chat that greases the social wheels, yet goes nowhere, is a real drag and will definitely get you down), or whether it's the depressive state of mind that leaves you more objective.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:33AM (#29215819) Journal
    About a week or so before sitting for the IIT-JEE [wikipedia.org] break up with your girlfriend and fall into despair and depression. Great way to boost your All India Rank and State Rank.
  • I never considered an occasional depression a disorder and this tends to prove it; depression would just be a state of mind to help you solve the problem that caused the state of mind in the first place. To me people that are always depresses or even always happy are probably the ones suffering from a disorder.
  • by epine (68316) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:35AM (#29215847)

    Ruminant depression is a different order of magnitude from end-of-universe major depression. Which do they mean?

    Sherwin Nuland on electroshock therapy [ted.com]

    At the other end of the spectrum, it's just a mood disorder (and working title of Annie Hall).

    Anhedonia [wikipedia.org]

    Years ago I read an article about stress and the immune system. The claim was that under stress, the immune cells leave the blood stream and enter into the skin cells. Hence the collapse of immune levels in the blood stream. Stress is often associated with physical confrontation. Perhaps under this circumstance the body is more concerning about fighting off infection from skin trauma than whether the last meal was a mite tainted, or some child has picked up a sneeze.

    I haven't seen this followed up, but does it really make sense that body's response to stress is to shut down the immune system? Never to me, it didn't.

    Another great one is the doctors instructing you that "whatever your itch system conveys, ignore it".

    'Itchy' neurons tell mice when to scratch [www.cbc.ca]

    So we have an entire nervous subsystem devoted to itch, and our only response is to not listen?

    I read an article that the appendix is now believed to act as a pocket of gut bacteria to restart the gut after a core dump.

    And then there was the whole thing about "junk DNA" where junk is apparently a scientific word meaning "you can't write a successful grant to study this". From another perspective, at the original sequencing cost of $1 per base pair, I can feel their pain.

    I get mighty tired of the scientific meme "functionless until proved grantable". Were the scientists originally responsible for this, or the surgeons?

    How many doctors does it take to change a light bulb? Three, but while they're at it, they'll change the socket too.

    • Add to my previous post masturbation and nocturnal emission: it turns out that a small amount of fresh sperm is more effective than a larger quantity of stale spumen.

      And female orgasm: the cervix mashes down on a little pocket where semen pools.

      And the bulbous bowhead of the male member: turns out to be good at removing stale/foreign semen from the vaginal tract.

      I knew I had more material, but it was locked away in another file.

      Mary Roach: 10 things you didn't know about orgasm [ted.com]

  • by damburger (981828) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:38AM (#29215867)

    I'm currently doing a very complicated documentation job about a system I've not worked on previously (its essentially been abandoned and I have to put together what they've done so it can be continued). I'm going to put on a few Radiohead tracks and see if it gets any easier.

  • If my PHB is trying to make me miserable, it's just so I'll have higher mental faculties. Of course, if I fail to show a sunny and cheery disposition despite my misery, I'll be marked down as having a bad attitude.

    Of course, all this can be solved by being one of the 10% of Americans who are on happy pills.

  • time to go off my meds...

  • Problem Solved (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:14AM (#29216457)

    OK, I solved the problem of overpopulation. But nobody cares and somebody will steal my solution anyway, so now I'm going to kill myself.

    I'm so depressed.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:19AM (#29216535) Homepage

    When people are depressed there can be considered two types -- 1) survivors and 2) dead

    The dead are people who are actually dead or pretty much on their way to that end. Those remaining are survivors. To become a survivor, one has to adjust and adapt. Closing down the emotional parts of the personality is just such a coping method that works for many who would otherwise be ruled by their less stable emotional components. The observations made are essentially looking at "what's left over" when the emotional part of a personality is suppressed.

    As another commenter pointed out, depressed artists use their more intense and unstable emotional core to enhance their works. So the result of depression is not always becoming more analytical and good at problem solving, but rather, it is a common result found when all other aspects of a personality are controlled, limited or suppressed.

    And those that do not manage to control, limit or suppress their emotional components end up in jail, mental institutions or dead and generally progress beyond simple depression (meaning they no longer fit into the category of "the depressed") into much more dramatic categories.

  • by srobert (4099) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @11:18AM (#29217321)

    I have a history of dealing with depression that goes back many years. It comes and goes. But lately, I have succumbed to levels of anxiety that are wholly unfamiliar to me. It seems that the only way to reverse the anxiety (besides Xanax) is to revert to a more depressed state. The depression actually feels comfortable by comparison. I suppose that's because I'm used to it.

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