The Victorians had many names for depression, and Charles Darwin
used them all. There were his “fits” brought on by “excitements,”
“flurries” leading to an “uncomfortable palpitation of the heart” and
“air fatigues” that triggered his “head symptoms.” In one particularly
pitiful letter, written to a specialist in “psychological medicine,” he
confessed to “extreme spasmodic daily and nightly flatulence” and
“hysterical crying” whenever Emma, his devoted wife, left him alone.

While there has been endless speculation about Darwin’s mysterious ailment — his symptoms have been attributed to everything from lactose intolerance to Chagas disease — Darwin himself was most troubled by his
recurring mental problems. His depression left him “not able to do
anything one day out of three,” choking on his “bitter mortification.”
He despaired of the weakness of mind that ran in his family. “The ‘race
is for the strong,’ ” Darwin wrote. “I shall probably do little more
but be content to admire the strides others made in Science.”


Darwin, of course, was wrong; his recurring fits didn’t prevent him from succeeding in science. Instead, the pain may actually have accelerated
the pace of his research, allowing him to withdraw from the world and
concentrate entirely on his work. His letters are filled with
references to the salvation of study, which allowed him to temporarily
escape his gloomy moods. “Work is the only thing which makes life
endurable to me,” Darwin wrote and later remarked that it was his “sole
enjoyment in life.”


For Darwin, depression was a clarifying force, focusing the mind on its most essential problems. In his autobiography, he speculated on the purpose of such misery; his

evolutionary theory was shadowed by his own life story. “Pain or
suffering of any kind,” he wrote, “if long continued, causes depression
and lessens the power of action, yet it is well adapted to make a
creature guard itself against any great or sudden evil.” And so sorrow
was explained away, because pleasure was not enough. Sometimes, Darwin
wrote, it is the sadness that informs as it “leads an animal to pursue
that course of action which is most beneficial.” The darkness was a
kind of light... READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE!

Tags: analytical, analyze, benefits, depression, evolution, purpose, ruminate, rumination

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This is really cool. I always considered this kind of thing but not specifically towards depression - I mean many of the smartest people and most accomplished in history tend to be the people that were anti-social and/or seem to have issues/conditions/sometimes even physical problems/illnesses/hindrances that we would view as negative. And yet these people accomplish things that we view as undeniably positive. Throughout history we can see people (men usually because women didn't make history nearly as often) who were likely homosexual and therefore never got married and never had children - but regardless they still made history for some great accomplishment that they spent their life on instead of spending it focusing on a family. It's interesting to think of depression as something that is perhaps good for society because people like Darwin end up escaping into their work and discovering AMAZINGLY impressive new concepts that change the way we view the world today. Thanks for sharing the article here. ;)
Great article! This reminds me of a show that I saw a few years ago about a group of people with mild schizophrenia and autism who felt that their conditions were responsible for increased creativity. A few were artists and one was an engineer or something, if I remember correctly. I tried to find a link on Google, but to no avail. :(

Interesting to think that disabling conditions might also be enabling when viewed from another perspective.
I don't see why psychiatrists would be upset! Are they just threatened by these ideas? Aren't they interested in forming new hypothesis in order to help their patients? I see pill-popping as an epidemic! People take pills for everything now, disregarding the serious side-effects and the dependency they cause. Normal symptoms, like those associate with PMS, are now given a new name (PMD or premenstrual DISORDER) and, conveniently, a new pill to treat it! It's like they're making things up just so they can push a new drug. People are losing the ability to deal with everyday, normal problems! They just want the easy way out and their psychiatrists seem more than happy to give them that easy out and not really help them in the long run.

I read an article in Wired magazine that said the pharmaceutical companies are loosing their asses because placebos have been shown to work just as well as most anti-depressants, like Prozac, recently. The FDA won't approve drugs that don't have better results than the placebo pill, which makes sense. Obviously, people's jobs are at stake, but... who cares?! I thought the purpose of these drugs was to help people, not put money in the pharma industry's pockets. Clearly that's part of it, but it seems to have become the main focus.

Like the author mentioned, both in this article and the one you posted, they aren't trying to dismiss serious depression or tell people to quit taking their meds (that would be irresponsible since drugs like Zoloft are not something you want to stop taking cold-turkey)... but I think his idea makes a lot of sense! It's not justifying human suffering... let's not be so dramatic and rhetorical.

I would compare mild depression to getting drowsy after you eat. Your body focuses all its stored energy into digestion and you become lethargic. Also, your muscles tend to be sore after a good work out, but everyone agrees it's good for you. Is this justifying human suffering? Hardly. Sorry, sometimes we do have to "suffer" in order to grow or evolve (growing pains!). If we get through it, we're better, healthier, well-adapted humans.

But, someone will lose their job if too many people are self-reliant.
Well, it's good to hear your perspective on scientists/doctors who research diseases being sensitive about their subjects/patients. From what I've read in other places, it has seemed like the main concern was pushing the meds for the kickbacks Dr.s got.

I feel more sympathetic to their sensitivity, but I still think they should be interested in finding better treatment for their patients than drugs. Of course, this wouldn't apply to those severe cases... like for people who are extremely Bipolar!

ANYWAY! lol, yeah... for the rainy-day-blues, I think rumination is great! People need to introvert a little and do some soul-searching every now and then. Turn the mind-numbing TV/radio off and just THINK and ponder. Amazing things happen in the somber silence. :)
I realize that, and I think both the author and I have conceded the point that there are different levels of depression. His "theory" is for people that are not afflicted with chronic depression. I definitely don't think it's good to allow people to go on in situations like those you've mentioned... you're right, it's not just a bad day... and not the same thing. But, people can be mildly depressed on a daily basis and end up getting 'scripts for that, which I think is wrong. If someone close passes away, I think people do need to go through that grieving process. If a person feels hurt over a recent divorce, they need to deal with those feelings. Being put on anti-depressants only prolongs the process; that, or the person is on anti-depressants for their whole life and only experiences life through a dull, numb haze.

I've known at least a couple people who were prescribed anti-depressants and eventually came off of them feeling like they'd been swindled out of large portions of their lives. No one here is claiming that serious, chronic depression should be trivialized. I just think depression is over-diagnosed and that, most times, the average person should learn to cope with life... and be ok with feeling sad or discouraged.

I do feel terribly for people who are so paralyzed by their depression; it's such a tragedy and I have no intention of trying to convince them what they're going through is normal.
Although I have nothing to back this up with, I think some anxiety is brought on by our culture (assuming you're American). When I was in South Florida for a year and a half, I really felt like I was developing anxiety... my chest felt tight a lot of the time and I felt so frustrated. I felt so out of control... the traffic, my job, the people I lived with, the culture in that area, the fast pace... all of it seemed to contribute to my raw nerves. I've never felt so on-edge in my life! I believe, if I'd stayed there, I would've gotten to a point that I might've felt like I needed help from drugs.

The friend that I lived with seemed to have developed anxiety as she got older... she pushed herself so hard! She lived on her own at age 16 and went to both school and worked full-time. I dunno, she just seemed to have this inner pressure that pushed her to her breaking point. Every month or so, she crashed and was dead asleep for up to 16 hours or a couple days! I'm not sure when, but she was eventually prescribed Zoloft. If she ever went much more than a day without it, she'd start going into withdrawals and was in danger of passing out (which she had done frequently beforehand).

Recently, she went to a doctor and he told her she probably didn't need it since her doses had never been increased; apparently, Zoloft is one of those that you have to increase for it to remain effective. So, six weeks later, she came off of it and hasn't had a panic attack since. It was a pretty rough detox... very emotional and crazy! lol

It just seems like it was her environment and circumstances that caused her to be so uptight. It was definitely dangerous for her, but... I wonder if she could've tried something other than drugs to calm down? It doesn't seem hereditary, just circumstantial. Also, when all her doctors are telling her she has anxiety, can't that act like a placebo and her mind acts out what she thinks she has to a more extreme degree? From knowing her, I just feel a lot of it was in her head. She believed she was mentally fragile and insisted people talk to her and treat her a certain way so she didn't freak out. Once her doctor told her she was fine... she was!

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