Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hyperalertness Is the Key

Today I read an article in the NY Times that describes the latest research in depression. Scientists now think that the process of treating depression is much more complicated than they first thought when they heralded Prozac and other drugs like it as a miracle cure for depression.  I could've told them that.  In fact, I did try to tell people that the drug, even if a person could safely use it, is not a panacea.  I don't use it because it makes my heart race, but also because it doesn't seem to work too well.

What I've been using--scanning, primarily--has been working for me (most of the time), although I'm not sure why it works.  I have my theories, but they are not backed up by science so they can't be right, right?  Well, reading that article has made me wonder if there is perhaps some science behind my theory.  One of the things the article stated was that the growth of new neurons seems to be related to improvement in mood for depressed people. They're not sure how, though.  And they think that maybe it's not Prozac that's helping but the creation of new cells (that takes a few weeks, perhaps) that does the trick, and that somehow Prozac and serotonin are stimulating the growth of new cells.  An interesting idea, since my theory involves the use of mental focus to alleviate depression, although my technique works right away.

Another thing the writer said was that they're wondering if the way the brain organizes itself has something to do with depression--that if you act depressed, you feel depressed.  That's somewhat like what I surmise--that the brain creates a feeling state that is interpreted by the mind as danger and the mind quickly fills in the causes that then prompts a logical response.  The brain makes you feel something out of context (another point the article makes--that depression is non-context sadness), and so you supply the context and act on that.

Something else in the article: statistics that some large number of people (49%?) are suffering from untreated depression.  That's because they're handling it somehow and don't want the stigma of treatment.  I can understand that.  I want to tell my colleagues that I suffer from brain chemistry problems, but I'm afraid they'll never look at me the same way again, that they'll see me as "sick" somehow, even though intuitively they know I am.

But what the article doesn't address but which I feel is inherent in depression is that it is directly related to other unpleasant mental states: anger, rage, anxiety, panic, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, even schizophrenia, paranoia, and mania disorder.  I believe that sufferers are hyper-alert and that the condition of hyper-alertness is causing all these problems, mainly in society, because that is where the problems are most acutely felt.  We live in groups, and so our mental disabilities affect the other people in our groups.

I still maintain that hyper-alertness was once a prized ability; the hyper-alert person was an asset to a group of people who were nomadic or hunter-gatherers or even farmers surrounded by wilderness and predatory animals.  But in a safe society, such people are not an asset--they are a detriment.  Their skills are not put to use, and can be a real disrupter in most circumstances. 

However, in parts of society--even our supposedly safe society--hyper-alertness is still an asset.  In high crime areas, for instance, it pays big dividends to be someone who can scope out the dangers, can interpret the behavior of other humans who may intend harm (though there are fewer non-human predators these days, there are still some).  I was reading a novel in which the main character is the survivor of an abusive father.  He learned to "read" the signs of the father's changing moods and keep out of harm's way when possible.  Such early training made him an excellent detective, of course.  But what wasn't brought out in the novel was that the father's alcoholism and rage was a sign of the same qualities he possessed and passed down to his son, what I call hyper-alertness.

More later.

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