Is Depression Good for You?

Some hilarious Purim Torah. Billions of dollars of research have been sunk into understanding the diseases (plural - there are many forms that we have seen) called depression and yet it's like they are constantly starting from square one. What do they spend all that research money on? Seems the more they spend on it, the less they know about depression.

Let's see. You suffer from depression. Should you take pills? Should you go to talk therapy? Should you just grit your teeth and bear the pain? And now the clincher -- Is depression good for you?

The New Yorker reviews two books that go back and start from square one, see Louis Menand, "Head Case" which poses the question, "Can psychiatry be a science?" Well if it is not a science then what about all of us who thought that MD and PhD degrees mean something? Menand reviews two new books, Gary Greenberg’s “Manufacturing Depression” and Irving Kirsch’s “The Emperor’s New Drugs.” What a confused essay. This guy mixes up a real disease with sadness and mourning and ends up asking, "Maybe we think that since we appear to have been  naturally selected as creatures that mourn, we shouldn't short-circuit the process."
Menand has not had depression. He hasn't spent a month lying in bed unable to do anything more than watch reruns of Gilligan's Island. That is clear. But he must have read about depressed people who commit suicide. That's been in all of the papers. So just what is this guy talking about?

More Purim Torah. In the Times we are treated to Jonathan Lehrer, "Depression's Upside".

He also thinks that depression is just being sad, only longer and deeper. His essay poses the square one question, "Is there an evolutionary purpose to feeling really sad?" This goes on to  present a pop-psych summary of a journal paper: "The bright side of being blue: Depression as an adaptation for analyzing complex problems," by Paul W. Andrews and J. Anderson Thomson Jr. in Psychological Review which you can buy here. 

And among his conclusions is the bon mot, "This is the paradox of evolution: even if our pain is useful, the urge to escape from the pain remains the most powerful instinct of all." So let's see. Depressive ruminations about death are really the ways we work out our relationship problems. Obviously another guy who has no clue.

Doesn't pop psych make great Purim Torah? Well maybe not if you ever have been depressed or know someone who has been on the verge of suicide or worse, e.g.,Marie Osmond's son, Michael Blosil, left note saying he was depressed before committing suicide by Meredith Kolodner, NY Daily News.

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