Doctor Blasts 'Benefits' of Depression

Julie Ryan Evans
16

depressionDepression is responsible for a lot of painful things -- suicide, drug use, and family discord to name a few. But recent research says it just might be responsible for some good things in one's life too.

Say what? Yes, an article in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, puts forth this abnormal assertion that depression just may be beneficial for people. In a study, those who were depressed performed better at "optimal strategy" activities, which include things like hiring job applicants and buying homes. They say depression may improve someone's analytical reasoning and persistence. Others say going through depression makes you stronger and that it can act as a "catalyst for survival."

So should we all hope to become depressed? What kind of message does this send to the millions of people who fight depression daily? I caught up with Dr. Carole Lieberman, M.D., psychiatrist and author, to get her thoughts on this theory.

Do you believe there are benefits of depression for people?

I don't believe there are benefits of depression. This is like saying there are benefits of having a heart attack. If you don't die,  then you get treatment which can help you learn how to live a healthier lifestyle -- getting rid of stressors and taking better care of yourself. But, surely it would have been preferable not to have the heart attack in the first place. 

What, if any, anecdotes can you share of someone being helped by depression from your experience with patients?

When depression is so painful that it brings someone into psychotherapy who wouldn't have gone into treatment otherwise, the patient can benefit from the psychotherapy. 

But, it's not really accurate to say that the person benefited from depression. They benefitted from the therapy. Anyone would benefit from psychotherapy, even if they hadn't been depressed to begin with. 

Do you think this study sends a good or bad message to people suffering from depression?

This study sends both a good and bad message to people suffering from depression. It can help people feel more optimistic by giving meaning to their depression. But, it can also mislead people into thinking they shouldn't take anti-depressants because this would take away the so-called "benefits" of suffering through the depression. Depression can drive people to suicide. It is not a recreational pastime to be enjoyed like yoga or meditation. 

Have you suffered from depression? Do you think there are any benefits to it?


Image via ben.seid./Flickr

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