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Re: Yeah....what Bob said! (how my depression agree's)

Posted by Noa on November 29, 1999, at 15:54:26

In reply to Yeah....what Bob said! (how my depression agree's), posted by CarolAnn on November 29, 1999, at 9:39:31

Carol Ann and Bob, I would agree. But I would add that the influence goes in the other direction, as well. That is, whether it is one's predisposition toward depression, or environmental experiences that start the ball rolling, once one has depression, it instigates actual changes in brain chemistry and physiology. In essence, it becomes a complex system of mutual influences, and for some of us a perpetually growing problem.

I was reading a book, called "Mapping the Mind" (sorry, don't recall the author), and in it there was something about how some people are born with more sensitive amygdalas, which makes them more sensitive to the most subtle social cues and causes them to feel hurt by them. Of course, the amygdala is more developed and active in the infant and young child, well before the hippocampus and neocortex are fully able to process thoughts and memories. So, you have a sensitive infant, prone to picking up the slightest signs of maternal or paternal negative feelings, and that amygdala flares up big time, and the infant takes in the negativity. In a good environment, where the parents are sensitive to the child's needs, perhaps the child with the sensitive amygdala will do fine. But give that environment any significant emotional challenges, and it seems like a recipe for emotional distress, depression, anxiety, etc. I think someday we will be able to assess infants quickly and easily at birth, and to teach parents to know their children and their individual emotional styles and needs, and to know their own styles, as well, and how to optimize how the two coexist. For me, I think I am that sensitive infant who picks things up without knowing what they are, just on an intuitive, subconscious level. Like Carol, my mother was extremely critical and insensitive, and my father, passive. My extended family had less substance abuse issues, although there were some, which, of course, I never heard about until recently. Similarly with depression. Only recently did I learn my father's mother was treated with ECT in the late forties, early fifties. She had a hard life, but so did my grandfather, and he was always easygoing and calm. And my mother's father was an alcoholic, I think self medicating for a chronic depression triggered by the death of his two to three year old son, who was hit by a truck while playing ball (my mother was a baby at the time), not to mention many other losses in his life (he immigrated to the US by himself as a teenager, was joined by two sisters, but never saw the other sisters or his parents or extended family again; his parents died before WWII, I believe, and all the others were killed in the Holocaust-something he never ever spoke about).

In any event, I think the relationship between biology and environment is complex, mutually influential, and dynamic. It continues to evolve as we speak (each time I have an episode of depression, I know those seahorses are shrinking!!). As a society, we love simple answers, unambiguous and static. I guess that is what you are referring to when you use the term "first cause" (I only peripherally followed the whole evolution discussion; I am not familiar enough with the concepts to follow along easily and haven't had the energy to focus enough to learn right now). But, as the saying goes, nothing is simple, there are no easy answers. Breggin may have some good points, and clearly the pendulum is swung toward medication which means there is going to be some overdiagnosis, misapplication of drug therapies, etc., as well as too frequent dismissal of the efficacy of various other forms of treatment, or problem solving strategies, including talk therapy. Not to mention "side" effects. On the other hand, that is no reason to condemn the entire practice of using psychotropic medication, as many of us know we have been helped at least to some degree by them. For me, my talk therapy is very helpful, but without some modicum of stability from medication, I would not make good use of the talk therapy, nor would I be able to put any of my insights or improved cognitions into action.
And it is never simple. I have been on a repeated quest to find a good combination of medications that work and are tolerable.

But our society loves simplicity, and simplicity is in vogue right now. The media loves simple, dichotomous controveries. When the big Prozac article appeared in Newsweek a few years back, it irritated the hell out of me, as many blockbuster Newsweek stories do, because of how the story is structured in that dichotomous either/or way. AARRGGHH. But even more, the media was playing up the hype that Prozac, et al. give people a whole new personality, one that is based on 1990's values of productivity, etc. I was so irritated. I was on prozac at the time, and did not feel it changed my personality at all. But it did help me fell less depressed. And to have the media making a moral issue out of a medical treatment that I was needing and getting help from, well,,,,,AARRGGHHHH.

The Newsweek headlines are a good barometer of how our society likes to think--in all or nothing, either/or terms. Is Day Care Bad for Babies? Do Parents Matter? And so on.

But we, here, at Babble, are a smarter than the average bear bunch, and can tolerate ambiguity and complexity, no?




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