Stumbled across an interesting article on the New York Times website about depression. It starts with Charles Darwin's own descriptions of what would come to be known as depression. He used terms like "fits," "flurries," and "head symptoms." The article goes on to look at depression from an evolutionary standpoint, asking if depression wasn't a evolutionary mistake, perhaps it has a secret purpose. What an interesting point of view; I don't know yet if I share it.
The nugget in this article that caught my attention was this:
…the thought process that defines the disorder, which is known as rumination. (The verb is derived from the Latin word for “chewed over,” which describes the act of digestion in cattle, in which they swallow, regurgitate and then rechew their food.) In recent decades, psychiatry has come to see rumination as a dangerous mental habit, because it leads people to fixate on their flaws and problems, thus extending their negative moods. … There is nothing profound about depressive rumination. There is just a recursive loop of woe.
A mind that chews on itself, as cows would chew their cud… a symptom of depression.
The bleakness of this thought process helps explain why, according to the Yale psychologist Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, people with “ruminative tendencies” are more likely to become depressed. They’re also more likely to become unnerved by stressful events… And then there are the cognitive deficits. Because rumination hijacks the stream of consciousness — we become exquisitely attentive to our pain — numerous studies have found that depressed subjects struggle to think about anything else… The end result is poor performance on tests for memory and executive function, especially when the task involves lots of information. (These deficits disappear when test subjects are first distracted from their depression and thus better able to focus on the exercise.) Such research has reinforced the view that rumination is a useless kind of pessimism, a perfect waste of mental energy.
The article goes on to explain the possible social benefits from rumination, which kind of made sense to me.
If depression didn’t exist — if we didn’t react to stress and trauma with endless ruminations — then we would be less likely to solve our predicaments. Wisdom isn’t cheap, and we pay for it with pain.
Apparently there are others in the psychology profession who vehemently disagree with this viewpoint, but it's interesting all the same.
For me, the identification of rumination being a big part of depression was like a light bulb. There are members of my family who are stuck in this "loop of woe." It's also made me more aware of my own feedback loops.
Ok, that's enough deep thought for now, before my coffee has even kicked in. Whew! Happy Friday!
Thanks for reading,
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