“Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?”
― John Keats
“In addition to my other numerous acquaintances, I have one more intimate confidant… My depression is the most faithful mistress I have known — no wonder, then, that I return the love.”
― Søren Kierkegaard
We all have heard about the negative implications of depression. It’s a serious psychological condition that can affect an individual’s mental and physical health. According to the UN World Health Administration, depression has become the most common mental disorder in the world, affecting more than 300 million people globally. Despite what many think, depression isn’t all about being sad or extremely down; it entails a chemical process in which brain enzymes are altered. The most alarming issue here is that, due to misinformation, almost half of the population suffering from depression don’t get the appropriate treatment or don’t receive any at all.
Many psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, and other specialists have been devoted to studying the causes, the disorder itself, and its social and medical consequences. While some are committed to finding solutions to eradicate the problem, others have dedicated their research to understand the physiological processes behind depression.
Perplexed about the question of why this condition is that common, evolutionary psychologist Paul Andrews and psychiatrist J. Anderson Thompson analyzed the evolutive implications of depression. They stated that it's an adaptive function that focuses the mind on solving bigger and complex problems.
Although their groundbreaking work hasn’t been completely proven, it has brought light into a condition that has negative and dark connotations. Here are the 3 reasons why depression can work in our favor:
1. You get more REM sleep
When you're depressed you enter a process of anhedonia, the inability of experiencing or feeling pleasure. One of its consequences is that it pushes the individual to sleep more, since it’s only at this moment when they feel some release. Since they sleep more, they get more REM cycles, which are the stages of sleep in which neural connections that consolidate our memory are strengthened.
2. You ruminate excessively
People with a depressive pattern tend to overanalyze their situation. Their thoughts run amok, fighting all the time to find a solution to their problems and a way to move on. However, University of Colorado psychologists have proven that rumination can help solve difficult cognitive tasks due to the implicit focus on thoughts that this behavior implies.
3. Your self-awareness increases
Basically, the chemical unbalance your brain endures during this time can trigger the neural mechanisms that process information faster and deeper. Thus, you have a more introspective analysis of your own situation, and depression becomes a moment of self-knowledge. Jungian psychology calls it katabasis, which means a "descent" to your own underworld, where you meet your shadow to be reborn, stronger than you were before.
What this theory wants to prove is that all the common symptoms associated with clinical depression like lethargy, lack of interest, problems to concentrate, etc, are actually our body's way to save energy to focus on the real situation and possible solutions. The supporters of this theory claim that depression can heal itself and that therapy works because they push the right button that triggers this self-curative process. However, it has also caused a huge controversy among specialists. Professor Jerry A. Coyne believes this type of approach and analysis is irresponsible, can be harmful, and can negatively influence the public’s perception of this condition. Moreover, he is also concerned because it supports the withholding of medication, which can be very irresponsible. What do you think?
The photographs that illustrate this article belong to Christian Hopkins.
You can also read about the 12-question test to know if you're bipolar or the story of the literary geniuses who suffered from mental illnesses.
New York Magazine