The recent death of iconic actor and comedian Robin Williams has understandably lead to much shock and sadness, especially in light of the fact that he had committed suicide. Needless to say, there are no shortage of eulogies and reflections related to his legacy, accomplishments, and characters — what one would expect when such a titanic and beloved personality departs so suddenly — as well as…
Something tells me I’ll be fine tomorrow. But it still worries me, as it’s been sometime since I’ve felt this way.
Something to keep in mind.
Trauma is not just the result of major disasters. It does not happen to only some people. An undercurrent of trauma runs through ordinary life, shot through as it is with the poignancy of impermanence. I like to say that if we are not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, we are suffering from pre-traumatic stress disorder. There is no way to be alive without being conscious of the potential for disaster. One way or another, death (and its cousins: old age, illness, accidents, separation and loss) hangs over all of us. Nobody is immune. Our world is unstable and unpredictable, and operates, to a great degree and despite incredible scientific advancement, outside our ability to control it.
The pituitary gland is known to the medical world as a key player in stress and anxiety, as it releases stress chemicals in the blood.
However, scientists have now discovered that the protein receptor CRF1 is responsible for releasing hormones which can cause anxiety and depression over extended periods of time. The protein receptor is found in the brain and controls our response to stress. When it detects stress molecules released by the hypothalamus, it releases these hormones.
Sometimes, one of the best ways to cheer yourself up is to make someone else happy. When another human being thrives, it becomes contagious. Even watching my garden grow or my pets flourish puts me at ease. For all our flaws and moral shortcomings, our species is still an inherently nurturing and social one. It’s very difficult to prosper in a negative social or physical environment. It’s been universally observed for centuries that happiness is strongest when it is shared.
The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.
David Foster Wallace
For sufferers of depression and other mental illnesses, the loneliness, isolation, and stigma is as bad — if not worse — than the disease itself.
Note, I’m not depressed right now, but it’s something I’ve experienced and observed time and again.
When you’re betrayed, dumped by a partner, or otherwise emotionally hurt by another human being, it apparently activates the same areas of the brain that are triggered by physical pain. Indeed, notice the use of physical words like “hurt” or “heartbroken” to describe these circumstances — that implies a certain intuition on the matter.
Conversely, when someone says or does something nice to you — especially when it involves physical touch like hugs or kisses — it triggers hormones that promote happiness, trust, and optimism.
Thus, the relationship between mental well-being and overall physical health is deeper than we realize, and should not be seen as entirely distinct (especially since the former is often seen as less important or “real” than the latter).
It turns out procrastination is not typically a function of laziness, apathy or work ethic as it is often regarded to be. It’s a neurotic self-defense behavior that develops to protect a person’s sense of self-worth.
You see, procrastinators tend to be people who have, for whatever reason, developed to perceive an unusually strong association between their performance and their value as a person. This makes failure or criticism disproportionately painful, which leads naturally to hesitancy when it comes to the prospect of doing anything that reflects their ability — which is pretty much everything.
But in real life, you can’t avoid doing things. We have to earn a living, do our taxes, have difficult conversations sometimes. Human life requires confronting uncertainty and risk, so pressure mounts. Procrastination gives a person a temporary hit of relief from this pressure of “having to do” things, which is a self-rewarding behavior. So it continues and becomes the normal way to respond to these pressures.
The forthcoming edition of an American psychiatric manual will increase the number of people in the general population diagnosed with a mental illness - but what they need is help and understanding, not labels and medication.
A new study published in The Lancet today has found a common genetic thread running through five well-known psychiatric diseases: autism, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia. It was an international research collaboration, studying the genomes of more than sixty thousand patients of European ancestry.
Scientists hope the findings will clear up how these diseases are classified, moving from describing symptoms to identifying underlying causes. And once other scientists dig into the data, there may be some progress made on treating these five diseases.