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Depression, philosophy and time.


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Does anyone else feel like depression is very much part of the "human condition"? As in, it's not just any old ailment... it's rooted in existential being and feelings of self. I also feel like it's linked to time and our perceptions of time. Maybe this is common knowledge, I don't know.

Having been depressed for about a year now... what I've realised, with regard to time, is that happiness feels like a memory and depression is awareness. Happiness is a form of being in which we are timeless because we are not contemplating time. Happiness is "getting on with it" and moving through time without trying to be aware of time itself. Depression, then, feels like being lost within time with only memories of happiness. Sort of like, we don't know we had happiness until it's gone. I feel more "here" now I'm depressed.... but I don't want to be here... I want to be distracted and everywhere but here... but I can't apreciate (or at least i don't think i can) a lack of depression when I'm not depressed..... because, well, depression is the state of mind that makes me wish I could have happiness to apreciate. When I'm happy its all taken for granted.

Can anyone relate?

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Well, yes and no.

Is depression part of the human existence? Does it evoke feelings of existential dread? Absolutely. I think that depression is the existential condition. Hamlet, long before Nietzsche and Camus, pondered the question of existence itself.

But my depression is not awareness; the focus of depression is the depression itself. I cannot remember being happy at all -- that is, until my next hypomanic episode.

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No. I don't think depression is the existential condition, or rooted in existential being and feelings of self, whatever exactly that means.

Your experience of temporal subjectiviy is yours. Assuming any one person's subjectivity to be universal is usually a mistake.

A year is a long time to be depressed. Are you in any kind of treatment?

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thats an interesting theory and i have to agree on some levels. When i get depressed its like im more aware of things around me and have a better understanding of certain things, as compared to when im happy its like everything is just racing by and noones paying any attention.

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No. I don't think depression is the existential condition, or rooted in existential being and feelings of self, whatever exactly that means.

Your experience of temporal subjectiviy is yours. Assuming any one person's subjectivity to be universal is usually a mistake.

Yes, but in a sense, that is existential!

I'm curious about the time flashing by thing. Could you explain more, from an objective POV? Do you feel less inhibited?

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[i have a migraine, so sorry if I am missing something major in this answer. I seem to miss entire sentences during migraines, even when I try to read really carefully.]

I don't agree that depression has some sort of philosophical underpinning. Why would this one disease out of the millions out there have some sort of ideology attached to it?

The closest thing I can think of to your approach is shinkeishitsu, which was considered a uniquely Japanese mental illness because of a sick individual's inability to participate in the basic unit of Japanese society, the "group." The illness itself was considered the inability of the patient to integrate into the larger society, not why the patient had difficulty doing so. And it was later determined that these patients suffered from anxiety.

I was going to link to the Wikipedia definition, but I researched this for my college senior paper, and Wikipedia is full of shit on this one. Anyway, the implication was shinkeishitsu was a cultural mental illness unique to the Japanese mindset. This was approximately at the time Freud was studying hysteria. In preparation for the release of the DSM-III R, shinkeishitsu was discussed and dismissed as a uniquely cultural illness. To me, it sounds like you are trying to impose some similar sort of Western philosophical underpinnings to plain old clinical depression.

So how do you account for depression in mammals without self-awareness? I never use this word quite right, but how did my previous dog's depression fit into the existential 'zeitgeist?' While I am convinced she could read my mind (joke), I don't think her self awareness was directed anywhere but at her stomach, or at any aches and pains she experienced as she aged. My vet diagnosed her based on visible changes in her behavior and body weight. She improved on psychoactive medication, I can't remember which one now. I don't think Bess pondered the human condition much.

And do migraines count as part of the human condition, as you are explaining it? Because my bipolar illness and migraines are considered co-morbid. I don't have depression without migraines, nor do I have hypo-mania without migraines. I have migraines during mixed episodes, and the few mild manias I have had. My perception of time changes depends largely on how much pain I am in. I have had to be a hell of a lot more philosophical about the migraines than the mood swings. And the only philosophy that has worked for me is radical acceptance (which actually owes a bit to Japanese Zen Buddhist practices, ironically).

The fact that you feel that your current mood is so much more concrete to you than your memories of happiness is an indicator that you should seek treatment. The Socratic method is not a treatment. If you have been depressed for a year, and have not sought treatment, please do so. If you have, and it is not working, you need to discuss changes in your medication with your p-doc. If you are being seen by a g-doc, you need a referral.

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So how do you account for depression in mammals without self-awareness? I never use this word quite right, but how did my previous dog's depression fit into the existential 'zeitgeist?' While I am convinced she could read my mind (joke), I don't think her self awareness was directed anywhere but at her stomach, or at any aches and pains she experienced as she aged. My vet diagnosed her based on visible changes in her behavior and body weight. She improved on psychoactive medication, I can't remember which one now. I don't think Bess pondered the human condition much.

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So how do you account for depression in mammals without self-awareness? I never use this word quite right, but how did my previous dog's depression fit into the existential 'zeitgeist?' While I am convinced she could read my mind (joke), I don't think her self awareness was directed anywhere but at her stomach, or at any aches and pains she experienced as she aged. My vet diagnosed her based on visible changes in her behavior and body weight. She improved on psychoactive medication, I can't remember which one now. I don't think Bess pondered the human condition much.

True animals don't contemplate their existential condition, but so what. Look at it this way. rumination is a cause of depression in people because it can be a source of long term chronic stress. Long term chronic stress will create depression-physiologically in the brain of people and animals. It does not matter that in people rumination is often the cause and in animals a more concrete, less abstract stressor is the cause. So the lack of self awareness and existential angst in the case of animals really proves nothing about a particular human being who ruminates on and suffers chronic stress contemplating their situation.

Rumination isn't a cause of depression. It's sometimes a symptom, but that's it.

Long term chronic stress doesn't create depression for all, or even most, people.

I don't really buy the assumption that animals have no self awareness, but that's an entirely different conversation.

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Actually, now that you mention it, Elephants definitely mourn, and seem to recognize remains, so the old "but they don't know they will die" definition doesn't work....

Elephants are incredibly cool. I'd like a teacup elephant for a pet, please.

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Sasha Sue wrote:

Rumination isn't a cause of depression. It's sometimes a symptom, but that's it.

That's certainly debatable. The Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for depression is based on the principal that rumination tends to keep us mired down in a depressive mental circuit, so whether or not its a cause or not may not matter ultimately for someone caught up in a depressive cycle. The original point though is really about thought and not rumination and it is certainly a contributor to major depression-the whole Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) movement is devoted to that idea.

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This thread sounds like people are romanticising an illness. Of course depression is rooted in the human condition in that some people get depressed and some people have done so in most recorded history. Some people also have had or have polio, the plague, MS, epilepsy and Lupus, too.

And of course depression is rooted in feelings. Depression is a feeling. It also is the feeling part of the brain that goes kerfuey. Let's not skip out on the body of related science.

Existentialism? It is common for people with certain MIs to have diminished ability to connect with others and to have themselves become the center of their universe in ways beyond mentally healthy people. Personal experience can become magnified, too. The far end of the spectrum is psychosis where the brain manufactures your reality. If you want to call that existentialism, okay. I think explaining it that way is romanticising the illness. Instead, I believe the behaviors and perspectives are unwelcome symptoms of illness.

But that's me.

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