Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Depression and relics

The news today is full of articles on the fact that prozac may be no better than a placebo for many people.
This does not mean that they do not work for certain severe cases, but that in others, it is more the power of suggestion. The researchers combed through both published and unpublished reports of clinical trials. And it would appear that on a significant number of occassions when the depression was not severe, it was more the act of taking something rather than the actual thing taken.
As I was reading in Ernle Bradford's The Shield & The Sword: when you ask people to do irrationally brave things, sometimes you need to give them some irrational to believe in. This was one of the explanations for the use of relics before battle. Sometimes, the belief gives you confidence.
The problem with using medicine as a relic is that it can cause very real side effects, many more than carrying a rabbit's foot about. Or creating certain rituals. It is a matter of making the mind feel that it can cope.
Here are few ideas for coping mechanisms:
1. Walking. Both Dickens and Kipling (among others) used to walk for miles. The scenes they saw provided inspiration. Kipling suffered greatly from night terrors. Had he not suffered, he probably would never have ended up in the native quarter.
2 Gardening -- Various writers over the years have found solace in the garden. Deadheading roses can be theraputic.
3. sailing -- a number of writers (Daphane du maurier springs to mind) have found solace while sailing.
4. Exercise
5 yoga
6. going to church
7. reading romance or other feel good uplifting/escapist reads which allow the reader to release pent up tension.
I am sure other people can come up with coping mechanisms or rituals.
The main thing is recognise that a pill is not always the end, and sometimes, it is simple belief that can get you through the day. Relics and rituals can exert powerful influences are not yet fully understood. And they may be necessary for the human pysche.
I know my coping rituals for when I am waiting to hear back from my editor are importnat. The Crows of Doubt can exert a very powerful and many times an irrational force. It is my rituals, my talismans, my beliefs that see me through...


Natasha Oakley said...

Irresponsible to release that 'research' when it concerned such a small sample I thought! I suspect there'll be some very sad stories in the press shortly if people stop their medication.

No doubt though that what you believe works so very often does. :) Personally, I'm all for chocolate ...

Michelle Styles said...

Chocolate is good.

Animals can be useful.

Hopefully though, what it will mean is that doctors will think twice before reaching for the presciption tablet and will start thinking about some of the non chemical therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural therapy first.

Also hopefully, people will relise that the mind is avery powerful thing, and the power of belief is not to be scoffed at, or taken lightly. Some people get better because they believe that they can. However irrational that belief might seem to the outside observer.