Latimer: Depression: What is it good for?

Many times I have talked about the prevalence of depression.

Many times I have talked about the prevalence of depression.

Of all the psychiatric conditions, depression and anxiety are by far the most common and major depression is thought to affect roughly eight per cent of the population at some point in life.

Compare that with the less than one per cent of people who experience schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and it seems a very large number.

So what is it about depression that allows it to continue existing in our species at such a high prevalence?

We often think of depression as similar to an illness in any other major organ—simply a malfunction that needs to be treated.

Of course, treatment is important and helps many people in their ability to function on a daily basis, but we still don’t know why the illness continues to occur in such abundance.

Researchers have been studying this question for some time.

One theory involves the purpose or value of rumination—the process of pondering and thinking things over and over and over—that is one of the hallmarks of depression.

Individuals who self profess to be ruminators do seem to be more prone to depression as well as to being unnerved by stressful events.

Therapy often encourages people to get out of the habit of excessive rumination as it can lead to fixating on flaws or problems and thus extend negative thoughts.

According to proponents of this theory of depression, this kind of thinking is not necessarily bad but may be a useful skill for us to learn from our mistakes or sort through complex problems.

Some go so far as to say depression is a way of forcing the mind to focus on its problems.

A couple of studies have found some benefits to this kind of analytical thinking.

One found that individuals with depression seem better able to make complex decisions because they are more willing to spend the time to thoroughly analyze the options and information put before them.

Certainly, there have been and are today many great thinkers, artists and poets whose melancholy has undoubtedly informed and inspired their craft. I have talked about this in past columns.

At the same time, research has also shown individuals with major depression experience cognitive impairments in other areas and imaging studies have shown cumulative damage to some areas of the brain with each episode of depression experienced.

Perhaps an argument can be made that depression has some helpful element to it when it is mild —however, anyone who has experienced a severe depression can tell you the benefits are far outweighed in these circumstances.

A severely depressed person who cannot be motivated to get out of bed or who is experiencing a psychotic episode is not going to be a more effective problem solver.

I don’t believe treating depression will eliminate a person’s ability for complex or analytical thought —but it will help in getting back to enjoying life.

At Okanagan Clinical Trials, we currently have an ongoing study of an investigational medication to possibly treat depression. If you are an adult experiencing depression, you may be eligible. Contact 250-862-8141 for more information.

Paul Latimer is a psychiatrist and president of Okanagan Clinical Trials.



Just Posted

Cherry season has arrived in the Okanagan

Dust off those cherry pie recipes

Sun-Rype Products Ltd. and Mamas for Mamas announce partnership

The partnership will help support mothers in crisis

Foundry Kelowna makes health care impact

More than 1,000 people ages 12 to 24 in the past year have come seeking help

Canadian pet boutique expands to Ontario

The Bone & Biscuit Company looks to leave it’s paw print

Two artists put on divine feminine art show in Kelowna

The show will be on for the month of July

Homeless people living on ‘Surrey Strip’ move into modular housing

BC Housing says 160 homeless people are being moved into temporary Whalley suites from June 19 to 21

Port of Prince Rupert names Shaun Stevenson as new CEO

Stevenson has worked for the port for 21 years as vice president of trade development

Senate officially passes Canada’s marijuana legalization bill

Bill C-45 now moves to royal assent, which is the final step in the legislative process

Fake attempted abduction not funny to B.C. neighbourhood residents

Two teenage boys won’t face criminal charges after scaring girl

New craft brewery location chosen in Kelowna

Rustic Reel Brewing says it will produce beer at new location on Vaughan Avenue

Mosquitoes out in full force already? Blame the weather

But a B.C. mosquito expert says the heat wave will help keep the pests at bay

Man pleads not guilty in 1987 slayings of B.C. couple

William Talbott of SeaTac was arraigned Tuesday in Snohomish County Superior Court

New GOP plan: Hold kids longer at border – but with parents

Move would ease rules that limit how much time minors can be held with their parents

Without a big data strategy, Canadians at risk of being ‘data cows’

Presentation said artificial intelligence could give Facebook and Amazon even more power

Most Read