Depression Part 2: The Road Back to Normal

Continuing on from last week’s post, I’m here to bum you out, go on about how strange brains are, and hopefully offer some insight on how to start solving the divisive disease that is depression. The same caveats apply as before.

So, I find the pattern of punctuated equilibrium cropping up again and again. In brief, it is a way of thinking about the speed at which things change. Specifically, some things will spend a long time in a stable state, not changing much at all, and then suddenly leap forward in a giant generational shift. It can be a little bit of deviation creating a huge watershed, or a little energy added into the system bumping things out of their stable rut. You can observe the phenomena in everything from evolutionary biology to organic pathfinding.

It might help to think of this in terms of a game. In game theory, systems can stay stable for long periods of time before taking a wild shift to a different stable mode. In the classic game Hawks vs Doves [mildly technical video] you have two groups: the hawks will never back down from a fight even if it costs them a lot, and the doves will always back down but will split winnings evenly. If you start with two even populations of doves and hawks, you have random fights between everybody, and you kick out the biggest losers, you will eventually have a fairly stable ratio between the two groups.

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Depression Part 1: How Chemistry and Memes can turn your Brain into Soup

What follows is a piece I started during BreakFast over at CCC. It’s my attempt to reconcile what I know about neurobiology, neurochemistry, and depression with some ideas on how to treat what is an incredibly complex and devious disease. Being a person who every so often gets trapped in a downward spiral, and having experienced so many brilliant, capable, utterly valuable people go hurtling down into a deep dark hole I want to share my thoughts and see if I can shed any light on the situation.

I’m an active reader of neurobiology. I’ve had an intense interest in it for nearly ten years, now, but am in no way a neurobiologist or practicing scientist. I’m an armchair reader trying to piece this together, share what I know, and spread my love of science. If you’re an expert in the field and find fault in my logic or terminology, please let me know. I’m always eager to hone my understanding of the meat that makes us think.

You can find part 2 of this article here.

So, here are two entirely unfortunate facts. Depression, serious clinical depression, is the most common disability in the United States [1, 2] and stress related disease (heart attack, chronic high blood pressure, hypertension, anxiety disorder) accounts for much of the remainder.

Stress, depression, and disease have a pervasive and infuriatingly close relationship. They are horsemen of the apocalypse, if the apocalypse included spending several weeks in your bathrobe, sitting on top of a pile of unfolded laundry, watching the Princess Bride for the twelfth time.

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