QUESTION FROM READERS
readers of "Being
Depressed in Spirit:
Deeper than Psychological Depression"
offer an alternative model,
a medical or bio-chemical approach to depression.
Instead of dividing depression into
situational depression and existential depression,
they distinguish situational depression from "clinical" depression.
"Clinical depression" means
depression diagnosed in a medical clinic.
This model suggests that a bio-chemical problem
or imbalance has occurred inside the brain of the sufferer.
Anti-depressant drugs are the standard way to treat
depression that has a bio-chemical basis.
RESPONSE FROM JAMES PARK
bio-chemistry of the human brain
is beyond my competence to discuss.
But if it does turn out to be true
that some of the experience we call "depression"
is genuinely due too abnormal brain-chemistry,
then, it would not be much of a stretch to conclude
that any treatment (such as drugs) that could
restore the brain to its normal bio-chemistry would be beneficial.
I search my own experience
for something like bio-chemical depression,
the closest experience I can find is being tired.
From time to time my brain gets tired and demands sleep.
When I have a tried brain, it does not work as well as normal.
And sleep is all that is required to restore its normal functions.
only major depression I have ever experienced
Twice I had a life-threatening illness: colon cancer.
I found the prospect of the premature ending of my life very depressing.
I dealt with this depression
by following the recommended medical treatments,
which have now resulted in no signs of cancer since 1994.
Now that the threat of dying in the near future is gone,
so is the feeling of depression associated with facing biological death.
have never had 'clinical depression';
nor have I have taken any anti-depressant drugs.
So I just do not know
what either of these conditions of a human brain feels like.
However, here is one possible connection
between so-called 'clinical' depression and 'existential' depression.
It seems possible to me that anti-depressant drugs
introduce numbing chemicals into the human brain,
so that everything seems a little less depressing.
Those who have taken anti-depressants
will have to answer this:
When you have good situational reasons for being depressed,
such as objective financial problems,
do anti-depressant drugs make these problems less troublesome?
anti-depressant drugs can numb our feelings
and perhaps make our thinking less acute,
maybe these drugs also serve to numb our spirits.
is another possibility suggested by someone
who has benefitted from anti-depressant drugs:
The drugs correct imbalances in the brain
so that the sufferer can think straight.
If so, this is not a numbing function
but a benefit that would allow the sufferer of a chemical imbalance
to get beyond that physical problem
so that he or she would be able to confront existential depression.
users of mood-altering drugs
find that it turns them away from their spirits
or do these drugs sometimes heighten our capacities of spirit?
(If you would like to explore
what I mean by capacities of spirit,
go to my small book called: "Spirituality for Humanists:
Six Capacities of Our Human Spirits":
we use chemical means to turn away from
we will also turn away from the suffering that arises in our spirits
—existential depression or existential anxiety.
could be very helpful relief from the suffering,
but it does not address the underlying problem
—if there is an underlying problem—
of existential depression or more generally our Existential Malaise.
Others are invited to join this dialog,
sharing their own perspectives, experiences, & speculations.
We make progress in our understanding of human reality
by being open to all hypotheses
and then doing our best to test them.
May 21, 2001; revised 3-28-2008
your comments about the original essay
Being Depressed in Spirit: Deeper than Psychological Depression
or about the above exchange of views to the author of the article:
James Park , e-mail: PARKx032@TC.UMN.EDU .
Go to the opening page
for this website:
An Existential Philosopher's Museum .