Do Depressed People Simply Suffer From An Accurate View Of Reality?

Wikipedia on depressive realism, the theory that those with depression are free from the “optimism bias” that skews most people’s perception of the world:

Depressive realism is the proposition that people with depression actually have a more accurate perception of reality, specifically that they are less affected by positive illusions of illusory superiority and optimism bias.

Studies by psychologists Alloy and Abramson (1979) and Dobson and Franche (1989) suggested that depressed people appear to have a more realistic perception of their importance, reputation, locus of control, and abilities than those who are not depressed.

Depressed people may be less likely to have inflated self-images and see the world through “rose-colored glasses” thanks to cognitive dissonance elimination and a variety of other defense mechanisms that allow [individuals] to ignore or otherwise look beyond the harsh realities of life.

This does not necessarily imply that a specific happy person is delusional nor deny that some depressed individuals may be unrealistically negative.

, , , ,

  • http://www.facebook.com/guilherme.braccini Guilherme Braccini

    Post more about these studies, please. :)

  • Andy Dilks

    Read up on Scottish psychologist R. D. Laing and his views on schizophrenia – very interesting stuff. I’m reminded of the quote from Krishnamurti, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

    • jnana

      I love R.D. Laing. I got into him in high school w/ a book called The Politics of Experience. Sad day when I lost that book. Recently lost another book by him, this one of poems, entitled Knots.
      What I gather from him is that a schizophrenic breakdown is necessary for some individuals and if they can be guided through it by others who have also brokedown in some manner(entheogens?) there may be hope. At least, it’s not ok to dope them up andthey aren’t really ill, so much as adapting to circumstance.

      • plumplum

        If you were more careful and didn’t leave your books laing about, you would be less likely to lose them.

        • jnana

          clever little quip
          ;)

    • drokhole

      Great Krishnamurti quote!

      • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

        J. Krishnamurti is ok.

        U.G. Krishnamurti is the genuine article.

  • jen

    I am beyond negativity and positivity. Such distinctions make no sense and do not matter to me. The world is what it is. Sometimes “good”, sometimes “bad”, but in reality it’s all moot. The depression these individuals feel come from the fact and reality that they realize, ALL OF IT is very much moot. Either you come out of this, or you don’t. However, none will remain unscathed whether they come out of this fact or not…

    • Matt Staggs

      Huh. I’ll have to remember this next time I step on a roofing nail.

      • Calypso_1

        Events of unexpected pain are excellent tools for those who train in the MAs. condition yourself to increase your situational awareness; make instantaneous assesment of body damage, etc.

        As to nails…i like to give thanks it was not an IED.

      • plumplum

        Funny… Liked.

    • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

      This message brought to you by Kurzweil’s Automatic Human.

  • jnana

    Even if a depressed person is seeing reality more clearly, that doesn’t mean they need to be depressed. A lot of depression is feeling sorry for oneself, which everyone has every reason to, but its a selfish viewpoint and there are always others suffering worse fates. Most depression can be cured by accepting one simple maxim: ” Don’t take yerself seriously” But do take others’ woes a bit more seriously and feel free to commiserate with them.
    Depression can have many causes. It could be diet-based. Eat healthier, drink less booze, exercise more. A lot of times I’m just picking up on others’ sadness, especially in depressed areas. Its one reason I travel. Rolling stone gathers no moss. Sometimes depression is a sign you need to make a change in yer life, perhaps a moral one. The most vile god-hater feels guilt deep down and its best not to be repressed or else it will bubble up as depression and other bad feelings. Repentance, honesty w/ yerself and others, and confession does wonders to lift the fog of depression.
    Anyways, I disagree w/ this article. Yes, a depressed person may be observing the tragedy honestly, but that’s not the whole story. Keep seeking and you’ll find a reason to laugh at the farce.

    • geminihigh

      Umm, I never once felt sorry for myself. I felt sorry for my family, my friends, even the one shrink out of the 50 or so I saw who really did care about me and his patients. I feel sorry for others who have to go through the hell I did. Some of them don’t make it. In one moment of total despair and bad decision making it is over. That alone gets me really down. You can’t just “shake off” depression. Telling depressed people to just cheer up is asinine, and makes them feel even worse because, guess what, if they could do that in the first place, they wouldn’t be where they are at! It takes a momentous amount of support to get your ass out of bed before you can even begin to gather no moss. Morality is only sometimes relevant. Some people feel good doing “evil” things, though this may be hard to digest for some people who have been indoctrinated in the belief that humans are inherently “good.” Perhaps a person can become a “vile-god hater” because the God that created them is a sick bastard who allowed them to suffer in the first place, despite their pleas for “his” assistance. Depression can also make a person so desperate that they become a mindless New Ager, clinging to crystals, Lord Krishna, and Kale smoothies

      • jnana

        In His Mercy He made the fixed pains of Hell.

        • Calypso_1

          Accuracy of reality orientation is improved with evidence based practices.

          • jnana

            What do you mean by that?
            In my experience, the mental sufferings I have endured, have actually served to liberate me. But, I actually disagree with the quote I posted above(which was by C.S. Lewis).Or I think I disagree. I have found no justification for the sufferings conscious beings endure, and that’s why I’m a heretic. Even though suffering has brought me many gifts, such as wisdom, empathy and compassion for others, and detachment from the world, I do not think these gifts justify or compensate for my suffering, but they have served to lessen my future suffering.

    • Spock

      I agree with your idea that remembering what you have can be a great anti-depressant. I had one of those ultra-realistic dreams the other night. In the dream I was on Death Row. I was hugging my wife for the last time and only moments from lethal injection. I kept telling myself to think of it like I was just going to sleep, but the fear of the unknown still felt like a bowling ball settling in my stomach as the seconds ticked by. I forgot about the dream until later in the day. As chance would have it, I was beginning to feel overwhelmed at the time as a result of some work related stress. As soon as I remembered how vivid the dream was, and how relieved I was after waking up and realizing it was just a dream, my day suddenly seemed like cheese and crackers.

      So yes, perspective is definitely a good prescription for some kinds of stress and depression.

    • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

      depression is a deep enough problem that its self preserving. Due to depression it makes most of your solutions that much harder.

      I suppose you have the same line of thinking that see a food-addicted obese person being weak minded for not being able to “put down the fork” or go outside and run.

      The real challenge always seems to be mustering the force of will to change.

      • jnana

        I think you misunderstood me. I wouldn’t necessarily say release from despair is brought about through force of will. I wouldn’t say the opposite, either.

    • Dingbert

      I think you hit a good deal of the “what NOT to says” in this article:
      http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20393228,00.html

      Trust me when I say that eating healthy, exercising, and especially drinking less booze will not help. Feeling sorry for yourself isn’t depression, it’s sadness, and being depressed amongst others far worse off than you makes you feel even worse. Being the “class clown” and not taking yourself seriously will not cure your depression (ask a comedian, they’re all depressed). Travel can be helpful, but coming home is more devastating than never leaving. Depressed people who love God feel far, far more guilt and internal conflict than those who hate Him. Keep seeking, and you’ll find suicidal thoughts.

      Please don’t feel insulted, though. You’re at least as helpful as any psychologist and more than any psychiatrist.

      • jnana

        wow, you just told me all the reasons how a depression can’t be lifted by some simple attitude adjustments I propose
        yer sounding kinda negative there..

        • Dingbert

          No, not negative–“depressive realist.” ;)

    • Calypso_1

      The only thing close to guilt most ‘god haters’ feel is the tragic loss of time & energy wasted on the farce of beliefs that were forced upon them. The liberation from those does indeed unveil a great joy & laughter. Any hate that may remain is toward ignorance & the perpetuation of mental slavery within a mythological world view/ political control mechanism.

      • jnana

        That is probably an attitude that the Luciferians running the show down here would concur with, privately. Y’know, CEOs and generals, and the like. They perpetuate the “mythological worldview” to keep others down, but free themselves from moral obligation, believing they are superior.

        By “God-Hater” I mean somebody who wastes themselves in excess and debauchery with no thought of the sufferings and consequences of others or for themselves. Basically, someone who is unrepentant. I believe anyone who lives has a Spark of the Divine within. (perhaps some who appear to live, are not really alive, I don’t know, though). Someone who has the Spark Within has a memory of Love, even if its buried very deep. To think, speak, or act contrarily to Love is to repress Love’s energy. To deny the guilt of opposing Love is to repress more energy. What happens when you repress psychic energy? It bubbles up eventually.

        A problem I encounter with discussing such things with a lot of people is as soon as I mention Christ and God, people have all sorts of ideas about what I mean by such terms. Basically, equating my ideas w/ orthodox Christian belief. I know this is what you’ve done b/c you said “The only thing close to guilt most ‘god haters’ feel is the tragic loss of time & energy wasted on the farce of beliefs that were forced upon them. ” And that had nothing to do with what I said. What did I say about beliefs? Guilt has nothing to do with beliefs and everything to do with psychic energy and repression. Too many Luciferians believe its wrong to repress natural urges, like sex and violence, but they forget there are consequences to repressing guilt, too.

        • Calypso_1

          “Too many Luciferians believe its wrong to repress natural urges, like sex and violence….”
          “Luciferians running the show”
          Where are you getting this stuff? It’s absurd.
          I’ve been following your commentary for sometime & despite an initially intersting pastiche of gnostic cosmology – yes you do present very orthodox views.
          ‘Psychic energies’ as you suggest are also beliefs in that they are emotions & biological imperatives overlayed w/ a mythological construct that has no more basis in fact than any other mytho-religious practice. That does not exclude the possibility of effects generated through the use of such systems; it just does not validate the entirety of the belief structure

          • jnana

            I’m of the opinion that the designers and leaders of modern society are Luciferian, revering the individualist/egotist archetype symbolized by Lucifer, Prometheus etc. Some call it gnosis of the Left Hand.
            These are opposite to my understanding which may be termed Gnosis of the Right Hand, which may share more in common w/ Orthodox belief than the LHP, or libertine gnostics. Not saying they don’t have anything to offer to our conception of reality. A lot of what St. Paul says is similar to libertine gnosis.

          • jnana

            I’d have to agree with what you said about psychic energy and beliefs.
            But biological imperatives are a mythological construct.
            Or is it vice-versa,
            or both
            ;)

  • mole_face

    I completely agree. I think framing depression as an “illness” only serves to discourage people from looking at the conditions around them and ultimately coming to the conclusion that the structure of our society is what’s causing such a large percentage of the population to lose their shit.

    The “chemical imbalance”/brain disease theory employs illogical circular reasoning – serotonergic pathways are activated during feelings of elation and well being, and depressed peoples’ brains possess low serotonin activity, therefore depression must be caused by a “serotonin deficiency”. In reality, low serotonin levels is just how the brain biochemically expresses depression. Artificially boosting serotonin with a psychoactive drug will certainly alleviate the low mood, but it doesn’t address the root of the depression at all.

    Saying that low serotonin is the cause of depression is like saying that high levels of adrenaline are what caused you to jump when you hear an unexpected loud noise.

    • mannyfurious

      Great post. The analogy I always use is hunger. The feeling of hunger is a chemical reaction in the brain. Does that make it a “mental illness?” Does a hungry person need a pill or or do they need a sandwich? I like it because it’s an analogy that can be carried all the way through. You can give a hungry person a pill to cure their pangs, but they’re going to continue to get thinner and weaker because the true source of the problem was never confronted.

      I think in life, a lot of depressed people just haven’t been able to figure out what they’re hungering for. Pills are good as a stopgap, but I do think it’s important for most people to try to pinpoint the exact source of their scourge.

  • geminihigh

    I have been depressed to the point where everything in the world looks bleached. When they show the world looking grey in commercials for anti-depressants, its not an exaggeration. It was nearly impossible to get out of bed,It felt like something was sitting on my chest. I was too chickenshit (thank god) to kill myself, but when I slept I didn’t want to wake up. Thats real depression. I am nowhere near that point anymore, and never want to be again. I believe that this is TRUE depression. Having a realistic worldview certainly can get you down for the count. This realistic interpretation of the world around you is labeled as depression in order to 1: Sell you expensive drugs, 2: To shut you up and placate/zombify you. Your views could be contagious. Thats not good for business or the status quo.

    • Juan

      Yeah, I’ve been ther too. It’s fucking hellish. Depression, anxiety attacks, night terrors, insomnia, I’ve dealt with them all.
      Tried meds (Wellbutrin) along with various therapists at one time or another over the years. Nothing really worked. Finally free of all that garbage thanks to Madre Ayahuasca and other work I’ve done on myself:)

      • geminihigh

        The only thing that kept me alive at that time was the love of friends (who I really only knew for a semester but were still there for me) and Salvia Divinorum, which was still legal and relatively unknown at the time. Her love, and the mystery surrounding her and what she had to reveal, kept me alive. You can’t solve a puzzle or ponder a mystery if you are already dead. I think I am ready to finally try ayahausca after years of research and preparation. But then again, I’m sure I won’t know for sure if I’m ready until I take those sips and I’m in her command.

        • Juan

          I wish you every success with your forays into ayahusaca shamanism. Besides research and preparation, which it sounds like you’ve done, finding the right people to work with is critical. Hopefully you’ve gotten some trust worthy referrals. Be careful, as there are no shortage of dodgy quacks out there just looking to milk as much money from you as they can without any regard for your well being, much less actual healing. As I’m sure you already know, ayahuasca is not something you wanna fuck around with carelessly.
          I would also avoid anybody who includes toé (datura) in their brew.

          • geminihigh

            I understand that datura is a potentiator of the brew, but I never understood why it would be combined with the other ingredients. Its unique nature doesn’t sound like it jives with the positive, healing nature of ayahuasca. Datura is a dark journey, one I’ve taken a few times, yet never will again. In fact the first time I felt its effects it was completely unintentional; I was working at a pumpkin patch and part of my job was to remove the invasive Jimson Weed in between the rows of pumpkins. The oils got on me pretty quickly and directly into my blood from all the cuts I received from its thorns. My eyes were the size of saucers for 2 whole days, and I couldn’t read anything. I respect it immensely. The spirit of ayahuasca to my understanding is one of light, healing, and positivity. Datura is one of trial by fire, shadow, and death. This doesn’t make it evil, though it has that reputation. Light cannot exist without darkness, and vice versa. Personally, I think my best preparation for a future ayahuasca journey is the many sweat lodges I have attended. When done correctly with the right people, it is life changing. A real depression buster for sure.

          • plumplum

            The “spirit” of ayahuasca, for Xrissake , is MAOIs and SRIs… not some invisible gibbering genie, perched on your conk, waving the bad vibes away. It sounds like it might have a place in treatment but is it is a less standardised version of the pills you can get from your local (trained) quack.

          • jnana

            don’t criticize someone else’s understanding of healing. If it truly heals them, let it be. It’s presumptuous to think you understand the Mystery. If you have experienced what they experienced, perhaps you would believe the same.

          • Juan

            Have you tried it?

          • plumplum

            Just because a particular potent neuroactive mixture is wrapped around in mysticism does not render it immune to comment, critical or otherwise. If it is hooey, it is hooey.
            Have not needed or taken this particular stuff. Quite understand it is a pleasant experience. But, this is just neuro-modulation via neuro-chemistry. Nothing more, nothing less. However a person ‘frames’ their experience, it does not get away from the way the stuff works. Sorry.

          • Juan

            You’re free to comment all you like. I don’t think anyone has suggested otherwise.
            From your comments though, it is obvious, that you have been misinformed. To describe ayahusaca as a “pleasant experience” really misses the mark. It can and does, on occasion, produce euphoric feelings. However, it also regularly produces “hellish” experiences as well. When you’re sitting in a darkened maloca in the middle of the Amazon, riddled with bug bites, puking and shitting your guts out, while you’re convinced beyond all doubt that you ARE GONNA FUCKING DIE at any moment; this hardly qualifies as a “pleasant experience.”
            Also, to me it seems prudent, when traveling in these realms to listen to the people who have tens of thousands of years of experience with these substances. If the maestro or maestra tells me something, I am going to pay attention.
            Whatever ontological “reality” there may be in the various shamanic belief systems, is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. I leave that to others to argue about. My concern is results and how best to achieve the results I am after.

          • plumplum

            I think your post pretty much sums it all up.
            I am guessing these maestros, with the wisdom of ages, are the same folksy shamen who gave you the stuff that sent you squirrely?
            Likely that your nasty experience was as much to do with electrolyte and metabolic f’ups than any local herbs. Maybe you are lucky to survive, but that was your phsyisology and not ganesh or shiva or anygod else.

            It is probably more prudent, overall, to imbibe quality controlled drugs in controlled doses, provided by the friendly corner quack (even though they be an arm of the malignant megaPharma that only exists to enslave) than from said shaman, who probably mixes the magic leaves in a grubby pot, with the same hands he wipes his arze.
            Of course, roughing it in the Amazon, or what is left of it, does pose peculiar problems for many not used to the local fauna, flora or food,
            so probably a habitat best left to regular rainforest denizens.

            But to get back to the topic of the thread…
            Yes, I do believe that people who are ‘depressed’ have a more realistic world view, but that could just be my own perception of my own experiences and is open to huge bias.

          • Juan

            Ayahuasca is also called “la purga.” that is, “the purge.” It is supposed to do that. It was not a mistake or a faulty preparation by the maestro. It is part of the healing process. That’s also why everyone gets their own puke bucket for every ceremony.
            Like I said, it seems you have been misinformed.

          • Jamie Lee

            The neuro- framework is still a narrative framework for the most part. There are no privileged vantage points.

          • Juan

            Exactly. You are free to decide what narrative works best for you in a given context. The right tool for the right job and all that.

          • plumplum

            Gobble de gook.

          • opUSBLUE

            no, pretty sure you shouldn’t mix MAOIs and SSRIs, the result would probably be serotonin syndrome. There are MAOIs in ayahuasca but they are used to make the dmt in the brew orally active, not as an antidepressant. SSRIs and DMT are not the same thing. So no, the spirit of ayahuasca is not a less standardized version
            of prescription pills.

          • plumplum

            IF you have done your research, you will know that this stuff is no different to the meds you can get in controlled doses (i.e Pills and capsules) from the medical profession. If it works and is cheaper for you, good luck.

            But do not kid yourself it is somehow magically different just because somebody in a goat skin and woad sold it to you in a frog skin pouch.

          • Juan

            Not only have I done my research, I also have direct experience. Before I had any experience, my point of view was just like yours; i.e., whatever is going on with ayahuasca healing is simply pharmacology and not “magic.” I have had to rethink that point of view based on experience. It is not the same as any other standard, western treatment modality. This is a HUGE misconception.
            It is “magically” different from western meds but not for the reasons you suggest. The way I have experienced ayahuasca healing is in a ceremonial setting that involves a strict diet and preparation. The skill an ability of the maestro/maestra to see what is going on with the various articipants and the group as a whole and to guide the visions and promote healing is critical. The intent of each person is also very imortant. It is not just simply taking a substance and letting it do its work. It is a highly personal, interactive and ultimately transformative experience. Also, I don’t know of any western meds, besides possibly LSD and DMT, that will reliably trigger the experience of being in the presence of a goddess and other intelligent, autonomous entities.

          • Jamie Lee

            When big pharma starts selling ayahuasca in pill form, let me know.

    • Calypso_1

      The bleached/grey view is a clinically measurable sign of reduced retinal contrast gain. It worsens with severity of depression & has been used w/ over 90% accuracy to coorelate clinically diagnosed cases against control.

    • plumplum

      I think you are being too unkind to many professionals who Yes, make a living “treating” depression etc, but they are not part of some www of conspiracy to dumb you down and control you… Don’t get depressed, but that is the job of the MSM!!

  • emperorreagan

    Just reading through this article and a few related articles: I’d chalk this up to researchers overextending arguments, as is the case of researchers that try to argue that positive illusions are indicative of good mental health. It’s a rush from the descriptive to the prescriptive.

    Also perhaps a result of the practice of medicine pushing to apply the definition of “depression” and the application of psychiatric drugs into realms where they don’t really belong.

  • mannyfurious

    Well, they certainly see things from a different perspective. Is it an “accurate” perspective? It depends what we mean by that. It’s certainly accurate from their point of view. I was pretty depressed for several years in college. None of my perceptions about myself or my place in the world have changed since then, but I went from feeling trapped by my perceived powerlessness to feeling liberated by it. Which perspective (i.e. trapped or liberated) is more “accurate”? I think we’re asking the wrong kind of questions here.

  • http://againstthecurrentblog.wordpress.com/ Against The Current

    I think the first step in any eye-opening
    realization of what truly is going on in the world will involve anger,
    rage, and depression. Then the next
    step is turning yourself into a person who can actually do something
    about it, by purchasing things you actually want to put money into,
    eating what makes you feel good and healthy, and doing what makes you
    feel good so that you can put all that goodness back into the world and
    effect change and help lift the depressive state of the world we live
    in.

    • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

      That would be pushing through the depression rather than running away from it, and we just cannot have that! Take your meds.

  • Juan

    As the piece suggests,depression may be an appropriate response to our existential circumstances. The standard narratives like xtianity, scientific materialism, postmodern existentialsm, or whatever have never really worked for a lot of people, myself included, and may indeed cause people to get depressed. It makes sense that the world we live in is making us sick, emotionally and physically. So if you do not buy into whatever off the shelf belief system or reality tunnel that is out there waiting for you, you’re pretty much on your own to cobble something together that works for you.
    After struggling with depression for years, I have found that re-enchanting my life by the judicious use of entheogens in a cerimonial setting (ayahuasca shamanism) has worked wonders for me.

    • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

      so what non-(xtianism, materialism, postmodernism, newageism) -ism would you propose

      • Juan

        I can only say what worked for me. Everyone else will have to figure that out for themselves. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, which, I guess, is a big part of why current metanarratives are not working for so many people.

        • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

          I dunno, I think ” There is no one-size-fits-all answer” is a pretty good answer.

          • Juan

            Thanks.

  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

    I’m not sure that an inability to even get out of bed is just an accurate “world view”.

    • rebelphuckers

      Then perhaps you don’t quite have a full enough picture of the world yet.

    • mymanybreakups

      Really? you think so? You ever been in a war zone? Seen large numbers of people murdered? Been raped? Been terminally ill? That’ll knock the desire to get out of bed right out of you. Yeah, I agree, you probs haven’t seen enough of the world yet. RE: The horrors it can inflict on human beings.

  • ParanoidCoast

    Depression is a very broad concept. Distinctions need to be made between clinical depression (suicidal), ennui, existential angst, world-weariness, etc.

    • Zyi

      Agreed. I notice more and more how emotions like sadness have become pathologized (feeling down? loss of pleasure in things you once enjoyed? maybe you’re depressed and this drug can help…shyness has become equated with social anxiety, etc.) and people tend to say they are “depressed” when they really just mean they are feeling sad or down. This I think is a normal response to the world, normal human emotions, but it is distinct from actual clinical depression.

21