Why, in other words, is depression more fatal if you are a man rather than a woman? The fact that suicide rates vary between eras and countries and genders shows that suicide is not set in stone for anyone. Consider the UK. In , 2, women in the UK took their own lives. Thirty years later that number had almost halved to 1, The corresponding figures for men are 4, and then 4, So back in , when the Office of National Statistics records began, men were still more likely to kill themselves than women, but only 1.
Now they are 3. Why do so many men still kill themselves? What is going wrong? The common answer is that men, traditionally, see mental illness as a sign of weakness and are reluctant to seek help. But they do. We do. I weep all the time. I wept this afternoon, watching Boyhood. And boys — and men — do commit suicide.
Cry Of The Damaged Man
A lot of people still believe that depression is about chemical imbalance. And one that has, over the years, been supported by numerous scientific studies. A lot of research into the scientific causes of depression has focused on chemicals such as dopamine and, more often, serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical that sends signals from one area of the brain to the other.
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The theory goes that an imbalance in serotonin levels — caused by low brain cell production of serotonin — equates to depression. So it is no surprise that some of the most common antidepressants, from Prozac down, are SSRIs — selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors — which raise serotonin levels in your brain. However, the serotonin theory of depression looks a bit wobbly. The problem has been highlighted by the emergence of antidepressants that have no effect on serotonin, and some that do the exact opposite of an SSRI namely, selective serotonin reuptake enhancers, such as tianeptine which have been shown to be as effective at treating depression.
Add to this the fact that serotonin in an active living human brain is a hard thing to measure and you have a very inconclusive picture indeed. Back in , Ben Goldacre in the Guardian was already questioning the serotonin model. It was always shaky, and the evidence is now hugely contradictory. Others have burnt the hymn sheet and written their own songs. For instance, a professor of behavioural science at Stanford University, Robert Malenka, believes that research needs to be carried out in other areas.
Like on the bit of the brain right in the centre, the tiny nucleus accumbens. That is the inability to feel pleasure, a chief symptom of depression. Maybe looking at a specific part or chemical in the brain is only ever going to give a partial answer. Human brains — in terms of cognition and emotion and consciousness — are essentially the same as they were at the time of Shakespeare or Jesus or Cleopatra or the stone age.
They are not evolving with the pace of change. Neolithic humans never had to face emails or breaking news or pop-up ads or Iggy Azalea videos or a self-service checkout at a strip-lit Tesco Metro on a busy Saturday night.
Cry of the Damaged Man : A Personal Journey of Recovery
Maybe instead of worrying about upgrading technology and slowly allowing ourselves to be cyborgs we should have a little peek at how we could upgrade our ability to cope with all this change. One thing can be said for sure: we are nowhere near the end of science — especially a baby science like neuroscience. So most of what we know now will be disproved or reassessed. That is how science works, not through blind faith, but continual doubt.
All we can do, for the moment, is really all we need to do — listen to ourselves. When we are trying to get better, the only truth that matters is what works for us. But then I have never tried cognitive behavioural therapy either. Hell, if licking wallpaper does it for you, do that. For me, the moment of recovery came in April It was totally inconsequential. In fact, there is not much to write about.
That was the whole point. It was a moment of nothingness, of absent-mindedness, of spending almost 10 seconds awake but not actively thinking of my depression or anxiety. I was thinking about work. About trying to get an article published in a newspaper. But it was a break in the clouds, a sign that the sun was still there, somewhere. It was over not much after it began, but when those clouds came back there was hope. There would be a time when those painless seconds would become minutes and hours and maybe even days.
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I am not anti pill. I am pro anything that works and I know pills do work for a lot of people.
There may well come a time where I take pills again. For now, I do what I know keeps me just about level. Exercise definitely helps me, as does yoga and absorbing myself in something or someone I love, so I keep doing these things. I suppose, in the absence of universal certainties, we are our own best laboratory.
If you are a man or a woman with mental health problems, you are part of a very large and growing group. Many of the greatest and, well, toughest people of all time have suffered from depression. Politicians, astronauts, poets, painters, philosophers, scientists, mathematicians a hell of a lot of mathematicians , actors, boxers, peace activists, war leaders, and a billion other people fighting their own battles.
You are no less or more of a man or a woman or a human for having depression than you would be for having cancer or cardiovascular disease or a car accident. So what should we do? Encourage talking.
Encourage listening. Keep adding to the conversation. Stay on the lookout for those wanting to join in the conversation. Estimated between Tue. Estimated delivery dates - opens in a new window or tab include seller's handling time, origin ZIP Code, destination ZIP Code and time of acceptance and will depend on shipping service selected and receipt of cleared payment - opens in a new window or tab.
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