Robin Williams' (RIP) Other Gift: a heightened awareness of the Disease: Depression

Robin Williams’ tragic death at his own hand may have a hidden virtue: a much-heightened awareness of the cruel, destructive, physiological disease known as Clinical Depression. (Which is worlds-away from “feeling depressed.”)

Since I know that “artistry (and youth) and depression” often go hand-in-hand, and so, a comment here about it might reach some ears who need to hear:

  • Depression is a disease … just like a head-cold in that it is physical, only infinitely worse and more insidious.
  • If you’re “in it,” you need above all to talk to someone. To someone who is trained to listen and to help.
  • Suicide-prevention hotlines are an excellent resource … even if you are not contemplating suicide. They’re staffed 24/7 by trained (usually) volunteers. They have access to all kinds of resources, all kinds of perspective, and above all, compassion. They can help you to assess your situation (in ways that you, frankly, cannot …), and to point you to whatever it will take to rid yourself of “this accursed thing.”
  • “Effective treatment” does not necessarily mean, “zombie drugs.” In one memorable case, the root cause turned out to be a food allergy … to broccoli. The human brain is a fantastic machine ruled, in ways that we don’t even begin to understand, by chemistry that’s measured in micrograms. It shouldn’t be a surprise, therefore, that it can “get sick.” (What’s amazing, really, is how rarely it does, which is “neither here nor there” for you.)
  • Basically, you can’t effectively deal with the situation because you are on the inside. The disease affects your perception of it, and interferes with its own treatment. Whereas a well-trained outsider … is in the position to help you right-now in a meaningful way.
  • Like a cold or the flu, Depression can utterly ruin your life … whether or not it kills you … even though it has no right to do so. And worst of all, you might not know what’s happening.
  • If I’m talking to you … make that (anonymous, of course) call. Don’t try to buck this thing. Get help, and do it now.

Thank you. (From a former one of those “volunteers” that I was talking about.)

Robin was a courageous funny-man who lived with this disease, obviously, all his life. Yet, in the end, it killed him. May he rest in peace now. But, may his death also be a sober reminder to everyone else. Including, especially, and you know who you are: you.

This happens to anyone, it’s just that there is a stigma attached to it. Our Mike King - a comedian highlighted this too. Personally, I will help a friend, relative who suffers from it, but my emotional bank is withdrawn by the time of seconds. Who wants to hang around turkeys when there are eagles to watch ? But I will help if I could.

This is being talked about all over social media so hopefully some good will come of it.
It’s sdo hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced it as it’s invisible but talking helps. And friends and family of people who are depressed need to just have some patience, you don’t often get anything back but the important thing is to be there for that person.

Personally I hate depressed people. They drown in their sickness and try to take others with them. I think the biggest problem in modern life is that we don’t have enough actual difficulties so some people have to create them in their mind. Drug companies are more than happy about this situation, because the consumption of antidepressants have skyrocketed since last 20 years. Before that we hardly had to deal with depression, because people knew how to ask help - from other people.

On a personal level here, one that I don’t normally follow:

When I was younger, I suffered from depression. The reason was a consequence of a disease which compromised many aspects of my health, as I was undiagnosed at the time.

Only now can I look back and see significant contrast in how I felt, every day. Even when one is happy, it is fleeting, and soon succumbs to the overwhelming sense of raw guilt and sadness that comes without explanation or meaning.

The important point is that it’s not a concious mental state. In my individual circumstances, it was driven by my body, and I learned simply how to enumerate the positives and force myself to feel indifferent about life. It’s an awful way to live, when you’re deprived of the simple happiness to be found in odd, obscure situations.

If those suffering with depression are drowning, it’s because they have no solid ground to stand on. They do not wish to take others with them, and if you feel as such, then either you struggle to comprehend the enormity of the condition, or you misinterpret your realisation of their condition as their will to afflict it upon others.

Before medical treatment of diseases, people suffered in silence, and didn’t ask for help because there was none to be found. The rest of your comment could be considered misinformed, but this particular statement is the epitome of ignorance.

The problem with antidepressants is that, like most of the medical profession, they do not address the disease, but merely its symptoms. These drugs will typically have a large impact upon other areas of the patient’s life, and rarely solve the situation for the sufferer.

Depression is a very difficult condition / disease / illness to cope with, because it manifests itself intangibly.

You were depressed by something else than depression itself (as a disease). Even then the way people react to their condition is different. How it’s possible if depression is a disease you can’t avoid? This is the big issue here. Almost everyone has been depressed by something, but it’s not (or was not) thought as illness that could be fixed with drugs to depression. Now it’s the opposite and despite of widespread use of antidepressants people seem to be MORE depressed. We really need to start to think, we have big brains for that purpose.

Krice, I’m sure that you do not intend to be hurtful, but . . .

The treatment of clinical depression is very difficult, because we can’t even begin to comprehend the micro-chemistry of the brain. We have symptomatic treatments which might or might not work, and that may have serious side-effects. And yes, we have sold them indiscriminately, even making-up three letter acronyms to use as medical diagnoses to sell more. All this we know.

If you’ve never encountered it … you just really don’t know. These are not “normal mood-swings,” “feeling down in the dumps,” “life sux and then you die” sort of stuff. These are things which are truly physical and they can take huge swaths out of the person’s quality-of-life, for years and decades, even if they never actually kill the patient. If there was a magic pill that we could pop to make the cause disappear, we surely would. But the human brain is one of life’s mysteries which will probably never understand, uhh, itself.

I grieve, quite selfishly, for the loss of a true performance-artist by his own hands. But it has, however briefly, pushed public awareness of this terrible, terrible, ruthless … scourge.

Actually, there is evidence of the possibility that the brain could wind up with a genuine chemical inbalance, this in turn messes with the ability of the nerves to process messages and in effect make one highly prone to depressing or even suicidal thoughts.

Yes, everyone can get depressed at times, but using that to deny that the condition even exists goes against the studies of the brain that have shown otherwise and shows a callousness against those that cannot function properly and need an assist such as medication. I’m not discounting the possibility that some out there might ‘think’ they have when they do not and that some ‘might’ be able to overcome it, but then you have those with severe forms of it where faking it just isn’t doable and overcoming it is virtually impossible.

Though when it comes to the medication, when I see the commercials go on and on about possible side effects, I’m left to wonder if the cure ends up sounding worse than the affliction, I could see those with mild depression decide to forgo it completely to be on the safe side. You may not get suicidal thoughts, but the pill might kill you anyway :eek:

One serious issue with the “common knowledge” on this issue is that there is very little.

It’s much more well understood than commonly known. Many issues relating to mood are caused by dysfunction in the rearing, in those early developmental years. Often those who have suffered that situation have a difficult time dealing with this “what’s in it for me” society. Those - like Robin Williams - who have not had that close inner circle that hugs and is there for each other are not equipped to deal with that gold digging industry we call Hollywood. Robin was an extremely wealthy person however he would have had to work for the rest of his life in order to pay alimony to people who never even cared for him.

This society has a habit of blocking upward mobility and some use it as justification for their “I’ll get mine” attitude. There is a serious problem with it. It’s not an endeavor to understand the problem through education and hard work that leads to a solution; It’s just “f___ing someone over”.

I think it’s just as important to realize the social disorder in this scenario as it is to realize the effects on individuals like Robin. Loneliness kills. A baby can die from not being touched.

There were signs.

Antidepressants are usually only given out when the threshold of depression is too high and the patient is at risk. A friend of mine tried to strangle her daughter whilst sleep walking, and so there was little choice but to put her on medication. The fact is, the medication worked and she now lives a much more healthier and stress free lifestyle. I have to watch her at work as others - who don’t understand her condition - will quite freely dump stupid work loads on her and then I have to step in and tell them to back off. If you hate depressed people, then I hate lazy “masters of delegation” who palm their responsibilities on to others…but that’s getting off the subject.

I was lucky as my depression is treated with improvements in lifestyle(exercise, diet, sleep etc) but for some its too much to cope with and they can become not only a danger to themselves but also to those around them. That is when medication plays its role.

Fact #1 - you are not usually under a tree, in a green field, with a full belly and no cares.

Fact #2 - your body does not like stress

Fact #3 - we come up with elaborate reasons for depression

Fact #4 - from a evolutionary standpoint , we just left the trees

Fact #5 - returning to nature, if property achieved usually cures depression

if you are in the woods, with a full belly, while warm hydrated and in good company, there may be a messenger/receptor problem

Fact # 6 - if you have a problem, it may be you, what do you eat? what drugs did/do you do? do you drink water? how are your salts?

if diet+ lifestyle don’t help, then fall back to doctors (who don’t even fully understand 1 person let alone ALL people)

then when under the care, you should have a person who is impartial, and no nonsense, keep tabs on you…

Antidepressants can cause hypomania explosions, and crushing depression…

I had bipolar like symptoms, from not sleeping, not eating and being overwhelmed,

this was not my brains fault,

My daughter was diagnosed as autistic,
My gilrfriend was told they don’t know why she can’t walk, and that she probably never would know, but that her nerves were broken.
My family moved 2300 miles away
My computer died

what “fixed” me?

time + food + understanding that you can’t hold back a sea, but you can float along with it.

Diet and lifestyle can definitely be a solution to manage depression, in my case it is, and I´m sure that for some it´s also the permanent solution, depends on the underlying roots of the problem; but to write of all depression as some sort of selfafflicted condition that you can get out of by snapping your fingers is just blatantly ignorant and insulting. The occasional sensation of feeling low is not the same as clinical depression. It is, and this I´m very well aware and understanding of, really difficult for people who have never experienced it to somehow understand how it can affect you so enormously. But, please remember, no two people are the same.

Many animals in captivity have been known to become depressed, most famously killer whales. In large it boils down to a lack of dopamine, a chemical naturally produced by the brain. The brain releases dopamine whenever a person experiences something they enjoy, this is how we feel enjoyment. When you eat something that you like your brain has released dopamine, when you eat something you do not like your brain has not released dopamine. Sexual intercourse, a ride on a roller coaster, and a great video game all release dopamine which gives us the sensation of enjoyment and, in excess, euphoria.

Illegal drugs are often referred to as dope and, contrary to popular belief, this is not because you’re a ‘dope’ if you use drugs, but because these drugs spur the release of dopamine in large quantities, this is why people like drugs, it’s not the drug that they like, but the naturally produced dopamine. In many cases people become addicted to drugs because they have trouble finding enjoyment elsewhere in life, they find little else in life enjoyable, little else in life causes their brain to release the chemical dopamine. The same can be said for many who struggle with weight issues, where a drug addict can become addicted to drugs due to the lack of enjoyment elsewhere in life so too can a person become addicted to food. It’s a means to get the brain to release dopamine and live in a moment where the person experiences enjoyment.

When the dopamine dries up, when there’s nothing left to enjoy in life an individual often finds that there is nothing left to live for. Dopamine is the brain’s primary motivation center, often referred to as the brain’s reward system.

P.S. As far as animals are concerned this lack of dopamine is likely due to their inability, in captivity, to obtain enjoyment through the activities that, in the wild, they are most motivated to perform. For a lion this might be the thrill of the hunt, for a killer whale this might be traveling vast areas of the oceans and enjoying a good size social group.

Animals do the things they do because their brain’s motivation center releases dopamine when they do them. The lion hunts because his brain motivates him to hunt, the bee gathers nectar because his brain releases dopamine when he does.

Humans, like animals, become depressed when they are unable to satisfy their internal motivations. However; unlike animals in captivity when a human is left without the ability to satisfy that internal motivator they become addicted to shorter lasting dopamine releases. People become addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex and food, these provided that release of dopamine, but the effects are generally short lived and only leave the individual wanting more. When you take away these last ditch efforts to obtain that release the person is left with nothing to live for and may take their own life.

Mr. Williams allegedly battled with alcohol addiction, but was apparently off the sauce when he took his life. I’m sure his friends all told him that the alcohol was killing him, but in reality it may have been the only thing keeping him alive.

P.P.S. Depression is not just a disease, it’s a pandemic.

I had left out the interactions with the physical, functional analogs. It’s important to be specific as to what is occurring with the individual however it’s also important to show how environmental factors - even social interaction - can play a role in physical dysfunction… i.e. rearing in developmental years. I wouldn’t take it to the Youngian or Gaborian extreme because of the observed existence of physical entropy in biological substrates, but there is - none the less - an observed dance between the physical and metaphysical.

I have survived some trying times just because I was fortunate enough to be born into a strong family unit… that hugs. I’m not trying to suggest that you are putting it all on the physical entropy of the individual though. I guess what I’m trying to get across is that this is preventable in many ways by creating healthy environments. In fact… I would go so far as to say that the hard sciences don’t get near the recognition and consideration that is necessary for everyone’s survival. That’s why I brought up the socioeconomic implications. A portion of what economists refer to as “Externalities” is hard science.

The problem with this particular situation is; the vast majority is thinking that this was just an issue with Robin Williams when the fact of the matter is, that it is just as much a family and social issue. I think that instead of saying thank you to Robin, we should be saying “I’m sorry”.

You scare me,

@Blonder: I agree, by and large. I hope not to offend, but I do like to compare the human to various animals as we do exhibit many of the same qualities and tendencies. Take dogs for instance, dogs, like people, are very social creatures. Also like the human dogs have been known to exhibit depression, generally dogs remain quite happy and content so long as they receive plenty of love and affection. Of course this varies by breed, greyhounds, for instance, also require plenty of running space. Some dogs are loners while others are lovers, but, again like humans, they all have interests that when unfulfilled for extended periods of time can result in depression.

The brain is highly intricate and surely one of the single most complex biological item encountered to date. “If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn’t.” -Lyall Watson

Somewhat similar in function to a computer, but far more complex, versatile and in a state of constant change. The brain can form new connections and break old ones, of course as the saying goes old habits die hard. This is because the more one uses a particular connection, like a muscle, the stronger that connection becomes. Also like muscles a connection that goes unused or less used over a period of time weakens. One of the reasons connections formed during developmental periods offer such lasting effects is because those connections are the oldest and likely some of the strongest, but this does not mean changing these connections is impossible, merely harder.

Nature versus nurture, as they say, is a debate that rages on in the scientific world, however science really has no clue in this department as it stands. Psychopathy, for one, has a good deal of evidence to suggest a genetic link, however; psychopaths only tend to become violent if their childhood was particularly traumatic. Psychopaths who are not violent, which describes the vast majority of psychopaths, are really just normal people with a particular set of tendencies.

P.S. Some things never really seem to change though. Dogs, like people, tend to become more violent if raised in an abusive environment, however; regardless of their upbringing greyhounds like to run and Labradors love to swim.

I think what we see with dogs is very similar to what we see with humans. A dog who was raised by abusive people learns to fear people, dogs deal with this fear in different ways. Some might become very shy and tend to avoid human contact while others might become violent in an attempt to scare the threat away, a good defense is a good offense for this type of dog.

An abused dog only learns to fear people, when the ASPCA arrives to rescue the dog the rescuers must still protect themselves because the dog is likely to attack them not knowing that they are not dangerous as the dog believes all humans to be.

Overcoming this fear of humans is not impossible, the ASPCA has a great many success stories, but it can be a long and trying process.

@atr1337 Actually, I like that you’ve used dogs as examples. The similarities are observed. Pavlovian pressures i.e. Classical and Operant conditioning appear to be characteristics of individual and social heuristics. The difference between the two being little more than coordination. Of course entropic and normal dynamics would be expected though.

God Bless Robin Williams. May he Rest In Peace. The Funniest man in the world and the Genie of my childhood. He will be missed. I think should state this: He was diagnosed with Parkinsons a little while back. It probably the reason why he was depressed. Just sayin.

BBzzzzt - WRONG!

Speaking as someone living with a partner who has clinical depression, I cannot begin to tell you how much this attitude stinks. There has always been depression, but before we understood it at all, it would have other names. Just as we now surmise a lot of the old “wasting disease” was in fact cancer.
Like MS, (which my partner also suffers from), it IS physical, but “hidden”, to see the MS we needed an MRI scan, but there is was, plain as day. Likewise depression is “faulty wiring” but how we do not yet have the understanding, let alone the technology, to see that.

I shall refrain from saying any more because it would be pointless trying to educate you on the subject. :mad:

@Blonder: Indeed, there is a reason dogs are often referred to as man’s best friend. People tend to gravitate towards those of like mind and dogs have many similarities to people. They have the potential to be your best friend and loyal companion or a fearsome and capable foe, it all depends on how the dog views the person.

Interesting you bring up Pavlovian studies because conditioning plays a major role here. Like people it’s what the dog associates people with, does the dog associate people with pain, suffering and fear or does the dog associate people with happiness and friendship?

Pavlov noticed that his dogs would begin to salivate whenever he entered the room, even when he wasn’t bringing food. This is classical conditioning, the dogs associated his entry into the room with food. This can, of course, be applied to a wide range of elements. If the dog is beaten with a stick whenever he sees a person then he’ll automatically become combative or aggressive whenever a person is near.

So too is the person, if the person is physically and/or mentally abused by their parents and/or peers then they’ll grow to fear and loath people, whenever they see a person they’ll immediately enter a defensive posture, but like dogs various different people handle defense in various different ways, some are aggressive while others are more passive.

@luisberg: The world suffers a great loss with the passing of anyone afflicted with depression, in fact, the world suffers a great loss with even the onset of depression to any single individual. I believe everyone has something wonderful to contribute to society, when someone succumbs to depression it is not only they, but the whole world that suffers the loss of these wonderful contributions they have to offer.

@Krice: I disagree with your opinion, but I respect your right to both have and express that opinion.

Edit: The key to building a positive relationship with someone is having positive encounters with that someone, building a subconscious positive association. I think, in large part, a lot of people have negative associations with disagreement. Disagreements can, in many cases, escalate to heated arguments and so when someone is presented with a disagreement they immediately switch to a combative stance.

This can be rewired by building positive associations with disagreement, the ability to disagree with someone, but not escalate that disagreement to an angry confrontation. If one finds themselves faced with a combative disagreement one does not have to back down in order to deescalate the situation, but instead maintain their position without following the other’s lead in escalation. Over time the association the other has with this person does not become negative, but positive or at the very least neutral.