No question that depression is rampant in America. Antidepressants are the number-one prescription drug in this country for adults under age 60, but according to “The Surprising Silver Lining of Sadness,” by Ginny Graves in the July ’11 Prevention, in many cases depression could be a reaction by your body to help make you healthier.
A new theory states that depression isn’t a disorder but rather a healing force. “Depression may be nature’s way of telling you to stop and focus on what’s troubling you so you can move past it and get on with your life,” says Paul Andrews, Ph.D., an evolutionary biologist at Virginia Commonwealth University who is quoted in the article. The idea that depression may lead to better mental health is an idea that dates back to Aristotle.
One hint that depression is nature’s way of telling you to step back and analyze your life: Studies have found that “sadness actually promotes analytical reasoning—a type of intense thinking that allows you to break down a complex problem into smaller and more manageable parts, making it easier to figure out.”
Depression also tends to make you withdraw from others. “Solitude can provide more uninterrupted time to think. The insights that reflection allows can be useful in the future. You contemplate your situation, discover what has caused your sadness and decide to learn from it and do better in the future.”
Of course, not all depression has that result. Still, the above suggests that we may be turning to antidepressant drugs too readily. “While swallowing a pill may forestall psychological suffering, it also may rob you of your brain’s abiliy to reconfigure pain into wisdom and grit—both of which will serve you well for the rest of your life.”
Something to contemplate before you swallow that Prozac.