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September 2017

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Post by Night Eyes on Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:43 pm

Just wanted to share this article on Depression x x

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Re: Depression

Post by Evie on Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:52 pm

Very interesting. Smile I definitely think that sedentary lifestyles promote depression. One small nitpick: from the article, it doesn't appear that Ildari has taken the history of medicine on board.

In view of nearly 3 million years of hominid existence, since homo habilis first began use of stone tools, our genus has undergone rapid environmental change since the advent of agriculture about 12,000 years ago. And in the last 200 years, since the industrial revolution, our species has had to cope with what Ildari calls “radical environmental mutation.”

Radical environmental mutation there may well have been, but depression has arguably been around at least as since Ancient Greek times. Though there is much scholarly debate around the degree of equivalence of what we call "depression" and what in the past was called "melancholy" (huge can of worms there - even during the Renaissance, "melancholy" was extremely multifaceted and ranged from to the fashionable posturings of artists and lovers to a genuine medical condition whose symptoms we would recognise as depressive today; in addition to melancholy's variety of meanings, it is always dangerous to assume that past experiences of a particular aspect of life were the same as our own, as we have a tendency to project into the past things that were not necessarily there), it seems clear that something very similar to modern-day depression has been around for centuries, perhaps millennia - and certainly for longer than the 200-year window Ildari apparently assigns to the radical environmental mutation that he implies has caused depression.

Obviously, Ildari is talking about bringing hunter-gatherer-type existence back as a cure for depression, and it seems like he makes some really good points! But if - as it appears from the article - he is suggesting that depression is solely the result of the lifestyles that have become the norm since the Industrial Revolution, he is off the mark.

Let's look at depression's older sibling Renaissance melancholy.

Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia I (1514)

As it existed during the Renaissance, melancholy was understood first and foremost to be a psychosomatic disease. Though it had many forms (e.g. religious melancholy, scholar's melancholy, love melancholy), they all shared the common symptom of "fear and sadness without cause". On the level of the body, melancholy was believed to be an excess of black bile, the bodily humour of melancholy. On the level of the mind, melancholy was thought to be caused by overzealous cogitation, which is why those engaged in scholarly activity so often fell prey to the illness. In art, the Renaissance melancholiac is typically shown sitting and thinking, with his or her head propped on her hand, and usually looking very desolate.

Depression may be an epidemic today, but melancholy was an epidemic in the Renaissance, despite the slower pace of life. In our own time, anthropologists have long been pointing to the rise of civilisation as causing anxieties that were not previously present while humans lived closer to nature.... and Robert Burton, who wrote the magisterial The Anatomy of Melancholy (1628) which from memory was over 600, 000 words long by the time he died, saw the time of crisis that was the late Renaissance as leading to a rise in melancholy.

Interestingly, Ildari's "depression cure" rings some very familiar-sounding bells: Burton, too, recommended physical exercise, time with friends, laughter, entertainment (e.g. music), and time outdoors as antidotes to melancholy. According to Burton, "Opposite to exercise is Idleness or want of exercise, the bane of body and minde.... one of the seven deadly sinnes, and a sole cause of Melancholy." Recommending physical activity as an antidote to mental illness goes back at least as far as Hippocrates. So on the one hand, Ildari's work rests (whether he knows it or not) comfortably on the shoulders of giants; and on the other, it's nothing new, as we continually rediscover the same truths regarding the mind and body.

For an excellent though short discussion of Burton and modern mood disorders, see:

The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” - Thich Nhat Hanh

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Re: Depression

Post by Night Eyes on Sat Apr 22, 2017 9:46 am

Thanks Evie, Yes I would agree with you that these feelings whether known as Depression, Melancholy or something else will have been around a lot longer than this article is saying.

For me personally I could imagine as long as we have been structuring society and living to rules and expectations there will always have been some people struggling in this way.

Also I do agree with being more active and Socialising more, it is definitely helping me with my Anxiety this year, I think it needs a good mix, the exercise definitely helps me but I think the socialising and talking helps me to either take my mind of my worries, or it allows me to talk with others and realise i'm not alone with my worries and that most people whatever is going on have some sort of worry or problem thats bothering them.
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Re: Depression

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