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Awesome: 'World[Chat] and DOTA' by Feral

FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style?Registered User regular
edited August 2011 in [2008-2012] Awesome Posts?
I'm just going to repost this and go to bed.
Feral wrote:
Do you know how antidepressants are tested in rodents?

You put the rodent in an uncomfortable environment from which there is no escape. A common version of this involves putting rodent in a beaker of water to tall for it to climb out of. The rodent will swim for a little while, then give up and float. Then you do this every day for a while, and each day the time spent swimming decreases by a few minutes. Eventually the rodent will stop struggling entirely, or will only swim for a brief moment when put in the water. You're teaching the rat that its efforts are fruitless.

Eventually, when the amount of time the rodent spends swimming becomes stable (or zero) day after day after day, you pick out your experimental group, and start dosing them with your would-be antidepressant. If the dosed rodents start struggling again, then there's a good chance that drug will alleviate depression in humans.

People who are depressed feel like they're slowly drowning, cold and alone, every attempt to escape thwarted by an insurmountable barrier. Obviously, learned helplessness, when it manifests in humans, is a much more complicated beast than learned helplessness in rats. In some people it manifests as inaction, melancholy, malaise. In others it manifests as impulsivity, self-destructiveness, a general "who gives a fuck" attitude towards their own lives and the lives of those near them. Or it may lead to the compulsive repetition of the few behaviors that result in a bit of color being dabbed on an otherwise gray and lifeless world - gambling, drugs, sex, WoW.

In each case, though, it's a fundamental component of depression that the mind's motivation system is short-circuited; productive effort seems futile and only leads to further pain and discomfort. Identifying and breaking that cycle of defeatism is always necessary for recovery.

Feral wrote:
You know what happens when you transfer a rat whose spirit has been broken by the swim test into a beaker that it could, with some effort, escape from? It still shows the reduced effort indicating that its escape response is still reduced. Its perceptions of its own situation have been altered by the damage done to its motivation system.

Humans are the same way. Faced with repeated insurmountable trials and repeated failed efforts to escape pain or discomfort, our perceptions of challenges or even of challenge itself become altered. And this is not a purely "psychological" phenomenon, there are measurable changes in neurology that accompany it. Depression alters our perceptions in a biological fashion that is different in degree and quality, but not in principle, from brain damage or recreational drug use.

But you might say that humans are more rational creatures than rats, yes? Well, yeah, but we're not 100% rational, not even the best of us. And the slow descent into depression makes us progressively less rational; less able to accurately perceive the barriers between us and recovery.

And I would argue that if you were to look at the lives of the vast majority of people grappling with depression, at least among those in the first world, very few of them have truly insurmountable challenges. Their obstacles are less like a slick glass beaker and more like a foggy hedge maze. There are, as Shinto said, people with terminal illnesses... and perhaps I'd add people with severe incurable chronic pain or very advanced age to that list. But to an adult who is otherwise healthy of body, capable of enough rational thought to actually execute a plan of suicide, and within reach of the patchwork of social safety nets in the first world (even the ratty crappy poor excuse of a safety net we have here in the US), there is no such thing as a truly insurmountable challenge.

Learned helplessness. it sucks.

every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.


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