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What About Depression? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Allen Lawrence, M.D.   
Wednesday, 15 August 2012 20:37
I recently saw a 22-year-old woman whose main problem was depression. While she had been hospitalized about one year ago for her depression, she generally functioned totally normally. She did not have what we think of as clinical depression, but instead what might be thought of as mild to moderate situational depression based on a number of unresolved situations and conflicts in her life. She held down a job, went to school and took care of her self quite well. She states that she has been depressed on and off over the past 6 years. When I asked her what she believed her main issue or problem was, she pulled inside of herself for a minute and then opened up with tears in her eyes she said, “I have no idea what I want to be and I worry that I will be useless and do nothing with my life.”
My answer to her was simple. Then do something, anything, for if you do not know what you are going to end up doing, start today doing something, whatever you think you might like to do. Continue doing different things until you find what you really like and want to do. It might take years, even your entire life time, but doing nothing, will for sure never help you get there. I explained that saying that you do not know how you will end up in life is a lot like saying, “I want a roof over my head, but I do not want to be bothered by building a house to support the roof.” It is generally not possible to put up a roof without walls and it is not possible to put up walls without a concrete foundation, and it is not smart to pour concrete without laying down the plumbing first. So, if you want a roof over your head and you want it to protect you from the elements and keep you out of the sun and rain, then you will have to lay plumbing, pour concrete and put up walls first, then you will be able to put up the roof and have what you most desire.

If you want to find what makes you happy, then become a searcher and try on every thing that you think you might like to do. Only, and this is very important do it as an adventure rather than making everything you do a chore. Don’t worry about becoming or being a failure when what you do doesn’t work out. That is a negative mental set. Considered the very old cliche “Nothing ventured; nothing gained.” Try out everything in life and you will eventually find everything you ever needed, then you will have everything you ever wanted.

While depression is actually a state of extreme stress, it is also only a state of mind. It is merely a reaction to not getting what you want or believe you need. In a prior article, I defined stress as the difference between the way we want the world to be and the way it actually is. This presupposes that we have already made certain decisions about how we want things to be and now life is not turning out exactly how we had thought or wanted it to be. We all have what I like to think of as our Ideal Person Image deep within who and what we are. This image is merely a set of ideas and values that were either instilled within us by our parents, school, religion or simply through living life. Some we have created for our selves, over the years of our life. For example, if I were to ask you what your favorite color is and you might answer “green,” you would be answering from your Ideal Person Image. If I were to ask you what is your favorite baseball team, your favorite car or food, your favorite movie or song, you would likely have answers for all of these. Your answers are stored within your Ideal Person Image. In fact, you are for all intent and purpose the sum total of all of your likes and dislikes, hence you are either your Ideal Person Image or you are in conflict with your Ideal Person Image. If now I were to tell you that your next car would be a 1972 purple Chevy, it is possible that you might immediately tell me, “No way!. I would never be seen driving an old purple chevy.” Your response would likely be based on the fact that an old purple chevy is not on your list of likes (and maybe not even on your list of dislike) which is of course part of your Ideal Person Image.

Another common reason for depression is the sense of hopelessness that often occurs when we can’t solve problems. While we all have problems in our life, certain problems cause more difficulty for us. We may feel a greater need to resolve them or feel a greater threat to our well-being when we cannot resolve them. Once we reach a place were our attempts and desires to resolve a problem we have been unsuccessful with, now to the point where the problem and its consequences feel or seem  hopeless, now depression may set in. Here depression is the end result of the unresolved conflicts and our inability to solve them. Depression can also occur when we do not try to solve a problem and it eventually overwhelms us and we have at some point recognized that the problem or problems are no longer solvable.

Depression is therefor a reaction to recognizing, consciously or unconsciously, that we are not going to get what we want or that we are not getting what we believe we need or want. The problem here is that often we ask for things we really do not want or do not need, yet we believe that we do need them. We can think of this process as the creation of faulty belief systems. This means that our beliefs systems are faulty because they actually are undermining us and creating even bigger problems. While we can look at these differences as making choices, they are and we often know, bad choices. This often means that during this process we may feel as if we are dishonest to ours self and/or to others, we may even feel guilty or as if we have somehow sinned. When we get what we thought we wanted we may even feel worse for it. We may try to make changes regarding what we thought we wanted, but even this often does not work. This also may lead to causing us to feel hopeless, lost, overwhelmed, frustrated and when they are not resolved, often leads to depression. In a sense, whether we know it or not, often all we have to do is to find what we really want or need and then change what we believe or change how we chose or act, and when we do so we can almost instantly eliminate feelings of depression and replace them with feelings of success, freedom and value.

I am often asked about what role serotonin and acetylcholine, both brain chemicals, play in this process. Current TV commercials tell us that depression is caused by an imbalance of these two chemicals. This presents a problem, “Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?” Does the difference between what you want and what you are or are not getting come first or does the imbalance between serotonin and acetylcholine levels come first? Is depression caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals or is the imbalance in brain chemicals caused by what we think and what we believe? I personally believe the chemical changes are cause by our thoughts which then affect our mental-emotional state, which then changes the balance of our brain chemicals. Certainly, it would sound better for selling any drug or drug therapy to tell potential buyers that the chemical change comes first, hence they would need the drugs to solve their problems. If in fact, the brain chemicals are changed by what we think, then maybe we do not need drugs to return the brain chemicals to normal we only need to change the way we are thinking. When we treat one group of people suffering depression with one-on-one therapy and another similar group suffering depression with drugs, what we find is that both respond almost equally. In one sense both get better, the problem here is that in the group we treated with drugs, we have not resolved the conflict that has originally caused their depression and they therefore must stay on the antidepressant almost for the rest of their lives. While in the group treated with therapy, most were cured and never need further treatment, at least they do not need ongoing antidepressant drug therapy. Those using antidepressants solve nothing. Since, no antidepressants ever solved any unresolved conflict or faulty belief system or changed any ones’ mind, the underling problem is never solved. True, after using antidepressants for a while some people might be able to think better and so therefore they can change their faulty beliefs, even solve problems, but it is also equally true that many of the people who take antidepressants will be doing so for many years and will remain depressed when and if they eventually try to get off of the antidepressants.

It has been my experience that when people solve the conflicts that are causing their depression, or when they finally get what they want, depression more often than not, simply goes away. My recommendations are simple, if you are depressed and you are having any level of difficulty functioning, appropriate therapy, with or without a short course of antidepressants, may make all the difference in the world to your resolving your issues and moving forward in your life. It is of course important that the therapist you pick actually knows what he or she is doing and can help you to find, recognize and resolve the issues that are causing your depression.
Last Updated on Sunday, 19 August 2012 15:09