Depression & Ockham's Razor

The poor brain, sliced and diced again.

Depression. Scourge of the modern age. Been there myself, having a good strong family history on my father's side of the darker moods. Evil twin sister anxiety, which often accompanies and/or precedes depression.

Depression is often described in terms of darkness, and when you're depressed the metaphor seems perfect, it is like a darkness - an abyss almost. But also a terrifying abyss, and the terror has no object, which makes it even more terrifying.

It took me a lot of years to realise I even had depression, and thankfully much fewer years to figure out how to get rid of it. The anxiety had always been there, sometimes at a low level, sometimes at panic attack levels. I think it was beating anxiety and depression that first made me deeply distrust doctors, because as with most chronic ailments doctors have practically no idea what is going on with depression. If you have anxiety and depression it will likely manifest itself in all manner of peripheral ailments, real and imagined, and none of the myriad GPs I saw over the years about these other things had a clue that it was all just the one cause.

You might think that's unfair, that the GP could only really treat what was presented to them by the patient i.e. the specific ailment of the time, but looking back this is what is so spectacularly and dangerously wrong with the allopathic model modern medicine uses. The doctor almost always says "OK, here are symptoms X,Y and Z, that means you have A, and here are pills or treatment B to fix that" (preferbaly via the detour of referral to best-mate specialist(s) who will see you for about 15 seconds, and charge you $300). No sense of a person, a whole person with all of their habits and personality and related physiological responses in other parts of their bodies, just a nice, clean isolated set of symptoms which can be matched with a nice, clean and simple treatment, often codified nicely by one of a swarm of drug company reps. And if you think this is too cynical a way to look at modern medicine, I can assure you this is exactly what happens.

For chronic illnesses, again modern medicine is almost completely clueless. This is because chronic illnesses won't behave themselves and stay confined to one organ or system of the body, where they can be isolated and a simple cause and effect set up. They have effects everywhere. Depression is probably the classic example, but we all know of others - Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Gulf War Syndrome, diabetes, arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis etc. And in a pretty obvious way this is why modern medicine is largely helpless in these areas, because it doesn't ever really look at the body as a single, coordinated system. So when you get these broad, systemic, chronic ailments that seem to affect everything, all medicine can do is throw up its hands and try to make the sufferer comfortable, and spend decades in hugely expensive research programs that rarely make much significant progress.

Fortunately the body is much smarter than medicine, and once you know that it always acts as a unified, single system (proven by entirely serious and credible scientific authorities, like Ingber again and his tensegrity work), all sorts of unfathomable mysteries suddenly become so simple that you want to laugh. Depression is EXACTLY like this, and I know because once I learned what really causes it, I could turn it off almost instantaneously. I can turn it off and on just sitting here, if I wanted to.

Again very serious, credible researchers discovered that depression has nothing to do with the brain at all, nothing. Yes when a person is depressed their brain chemicals behave in certain, trackable ways, but that's true for when you take a shower, go for a walk or eat cheese too. Your brain is always active, and the chemicals in it will respond to everything you do in different ways. The reason medicine will treat depression as a brain disease, and often give you anti-depressant medication to alter the balance of these brain chemicals, is that neuroscientists and drug companies have established, vested intersts in brain research, and because most of us have almost no knowledge of science as it''s actually practised, we can't imagine that anything a scientist says could possibly be self-serving. If you work in science though you know that every 'theory' carries with it a whole momentum of research funding and vested interests , which doesn't mean scientists are corrupt but only that they will naturally try to push their own barrows, as it's their lifvelihood at stake. It would astonish the average non-scientist how little scientists agree amongst themselves, although the climate change debate has turned some lights on for those who believed the smooth PR of science popularistaion of noble progression towards scientific truth.

Anyway, what is depression? It's utterly simple. Depression is a whole-system response to excessive emotional rumination. Or in other words, it's what you end up with if you spend a lot of time sitting and stewing over dark thoughts. This sitting and stewing then flows into the full physiological response of your system, because your body always acts as a unified whole - if you sit long enough and pick at dark thoughts like a scab, then that will flow through into your emotions and physical reactions too. This is where a vicious spiral downwards appears, because as you get those 'physical' responses, which are unpleasant, you ruminate even more darkly in your suffering, which produces more physical response, which produces more rumination...

It can't be as simple as that? Yes it can. Non-depressed people have dark thoughts too, but they move on and don't enter this self-feeding downward spiral. As a depressed person enters this spiral, their brain responds, as part of that whole systemic pattern. Serotonin and neurotransmitter behaviour and all sorts of other things happen, that neuroscientists can get their jollies over. But this is the effect of all of that excessive rumination, and to treat depression as a brain illness is completely backwards.

If you have depression, and I had it bad, you can test this for yourself. Stopping the rumination stops the depression. Fast. No need for toxic drugs. Yes the drugs will have an effect, but why treat the effect when you can nip the cause in the bud without leaving your couch? A brilliant group of psychologists in the UK put together a package that anybody you know with depression can work through themselves, which you can find here. It's all beautifully summarised in the diagram below, which shows the link to sleep too (depressed people sleep badly).

Depression cycle simple

Alas you might find that some if not most people will refuse to believe that it can be this easy, and that doctors and medical scientists with all of their professional and technical superstructure are about as useful as thumbtacks on your chair, for a case of haemorrhoids. Doctors and scientists are the new priests, people worship them. Mostly because they don't know their own elbow from their arseholes, they've delegated the entire responsbility for their own bodies to somebody else i.e. their doctor. But you don't need to look hard to find other doctors and scientists who are repulsed by the self-serving complexity of this sort of thing, and again it's only people who haven't trained or worked in science (i.e. most people) who don't realise that there are viewpoints and disagreements in science as much as anywhere else. And that it's still perfectly scientific to reject the conventional wisdom on things like depression, because it's just one (powerful, self-serving) research program at work.

Ockham's Razor. When you have the choice of two theories to explain something, and one is ridiculously complex and the other is simple, pick the simple one. Unless your real interest is protecting your turf and getting rich.


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