Friday, October 26, 2007

You Become What You Think About

Depression, to me, is a lot like gravity. Some individuals are fortunate enough to go about their daily lives without paying much attention to it and clearly do not feel its heavy presence lurking over their shoulders throughout the day, while other, less fortunate individuals conscientiously endure it and battle to ignore it every single day. They feel it every waking morning of their lives (and at times it is so powerful that it keeps them in their beds). And for this latter category of people the only form of escape is temporary, like a quick trip to outer space, that is usually drink or drug induced, which only leads to a greater degree of overall unhappiness since contemporary law does not look very favorably towards these desperate acts of behavior, these attempts of escape.

It may sound odd but depression truly is an addiction. Because once you get in the habit of it, and the longer you indulge yourself in its sorrowful clasps, the harder it becomes to emancipate yourself from its shackles. But I believe that there is a way out, a way to break this habit, because it is an addiction, I believe that it is ipso facto a choice. When someone tells you that the best way to stop smoking is to simply quit, a very simple solution, you scoff because while true, that choice does not seem remotely attainable. The same applies to depression. It is a choice that you make, a way you perceive the events that take place in your life, and the organization of those events that I believe triggers the emotional and psychological side affects of depression.

The best way, I think, to illustrate this is by analogy. I actually owe this train of thought to an ‘intuitive trick’ that one of my ex-girlfriends used to perform. Her claim was that whenever she looked at the clock the numbers signifying the hours would be various but the numbers that represented the minutes would always be ‘39’. She would prove her thesis to me time and time again and pretty soon I found that I too had acquired this peculiar habit. However, I must now confess that our little intuitive trick is not so much magic as it is a cognitive habit of memory.

If I hold the belief that I see the clock every 39th minute, then every time I do see the clock at this time I will recall my belief and purport it to be true. Even though I continuously glance at the clock, all the times it is not 39 is trivial to me, it is when 39 appear s that a memory neuron sparks and I proclaim, ‘hey its 39!’ in my head, reminding myself of my weird trick.

Another example of this habit, in case the analogy above does not make sense, is the new car-every car phenomenon. After you purchase your brand new (whether actually new or just new to you) car you suddenly observe that your car is everywhere. You drive down the highway and you keep seeing your car wizzing by in the opposite lane. All of a sudden it seems like everyone followed your expert purchase and bought themselves the very same car, when in fact you are just more inclined to notice this make and model of car, because you have a reason to notice it now (as opposed to all the other cars zooming by).

This very same phenomenon applies to depression. Depression is created out of the belief that the world is inherently against you. You believe that the things or events which have taken place in your life clearly justify this belief—your future optimism is raped by your past tragedies. People who actually have had rather significant personal tragedies in their lives, such as the loss of a parent or sibling or friend, or even other significant psychological or emotional events to that individual, have a higher tendency of noticing, constantly, the gravitational force of depression. They feel it is inescapable and no matter how fast they run or how high they jump, in the end, gravity will always win. Because they believe this they very often give up and subscribe to the ‘fuck it’ attitude of life, in which they believe nothing they do really matters. It is a self-destructive stance and it obviously only leads the individual's belief that the world is against them to be exponentially increased and justified.

This is my own, personal, theory of depression but a recent study, courtesy of the blogger over at Cognitive Daily, on facial emotion recognition seems to support my suspicions.

From the link:

The students who had heard the depressing music rated ambiguous, less intense faces significantly higher for rejection and sadness than those who heard the happy music. They rated clear, less intense faces significantly higher in fear and lower in invitation / elation than those who listened to the happy music.

So overall people who are feeling more depressed are likely to see more negative emotions and less positive emotions, even in schematic faces, especially when the faces are ambiguous or less intense.

Bouhuys et al. suggest that this phenomenon might make clinical depression self-reinforcing. Depressed people see more negativity even in benign facial expressions, which in turn leads to more depressed emotions.


Anonymous said...

I agree you can become what you think about, but its also about what you put in your body.Our brains are missing amino acids, vitamins,omega 3 etc and this can impact our behaviour.
I'm too old to be writing blogs, but think that this whole depression thing is not getting soklved by therapy and drugs, so why not look into what the brain is naturally lacking.

AdamK said...

Anonymous said: but its also about what you put in your body.

Right you are and one could even argue that the environment your body is exposed to could potentially influence your moods.

Blogger Neurocronic had an interesting post about this a few months ago...on the question of whether or not summer makes us happier and if true, how come.
Is it because of the production of Vitamin D or is it because sunlight suppresses the production of melatonin.

You can read the post in its entirety here:

Thanks for sharing your comment! = )