Sunday, August 30, 2009
I Am A Ruminant
Stumbled upon this article in Scientific American while steadfastly refusing to hit the sack this morning. Below, a few highlights and my annotations:
"So what could be so useful about depression? Depressed people often think intensely about their problems. 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."
Hence, one of the words in the title of this blog.
"Many other symptoms of depression make sense in light of the idea that analysis must be uninterrupted. The desire for social isolation, for instance, helps the depressed person avoid situations that would require thinking about other things. Similarly, the inability to derive pleasure from sex or other activities prevents the depressed person from engaging in activities that could distract him or her from the problem. Even the loss of appetite often seen in depression could be viewed as promoting analysis because chewing and other oral activity interferes with the brain’s ability to process information."
This should explain my disinterest in sex and my disaffection for food.
"But is there any evidence that depression is useful in analyzing complex problems? For one thing, if depressive rumination were harmful, as most clinicians and researchers assume, then bouts of depression should be slower to resolve when people are given interventions that encourage rumination, such as having them write about their strongest thoughts and feelings. However, the opposite appears to be true. Several studies have found that expressive writing promotes quicker resolution of depression, and they suggest that this is because depressed people gain insight into their problems."
And this should explain why I've started to blog.
"There is another suggestive line of evidence. Various studies have found that people in depressed mood states are better at solving social dilemmas. Yet these would seem to have been precisely the kind of problems difficult enough to require analysis and important enough to drive the evolution of such a costly emotion. Consider a woman with young children who discovers her husband is having an affair. Is the wife’s best strategy to ignore it, or force him to choose between her and the other woman, and risk abandonment? Laboratory experiments indicate that depressed people are better at solving social dilemmas by better analysis of the costs and benefits of the different options that they might take.
But depression is nature’s way of telling you that you’ve got complex social problems that the mind is intent on solving. Therapies should try to encourage depressive rumination rather than try to stop it, and they should focus on trying to help people solve the problems that trigger their bouts of depression."
I guess this means this blog will go on for a good while, then.