Emerging from the cataclysmic depression and anxiety which has ensnared me for much of this year, I am remembering research I once read about the positive effects of depression.
As someone who has suffered so much throughout her life, it’s a little difficult for me to open my mind to the fact that there may be possible benefits to depression. I think I’m with Sonja Lyubomirsky, who wrote in an article for Psychology Today:
I am in the midst of writing a new book (tentatively titled The Prepared Mind) and coincidentally I happen to be working right now on a short section called “Is There an Upside to Suffering?” My answer to this question, in a word, is “no.” There is value to sadness. There is value to recognizing one’s own (and the world’s) problems and ills. There is value to learning the lesson that life is not always good or fair. But most depression and suffering are agonizing, undeserved, and lead to nothing good.
What are these putative benefits? Sadness indicates problems for which solutions must be sought; there is some evidence that the depressed mind is less prone to stereotyping; and there have been some studies showing that people suffering depression think in a slower, more analytical style, leading to better decision-making.
I beg your pardon?! Better decision-making? I wish! I try never to make major decisions while depressed (the big ones – move house, sell the car, end your life, you know what I’m talking about) and I make numerous small yet poor decisions (“I’ll exercise tomorrow instead of today”; “I’ll just eat a bit more chocolate”; “I’ll cancel my coffee date, because I just don’t feel up to it”).
So far as I’m concerned, Lyubomirsky’s right: I can’t see the upside to depression, and the research which purports to demonstrate it is compromised by the fact that subjects are often put into a sad mood in a laboratory, for instance by listening to slow, sad music, as opposed to studying those with long-term clinical depression.
Still, I’m open to learning, so I want to know your opinion: is there an upside to depression? Or does it just suck?!