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More than sad: Depression affects your ability to think

May 6, 2016

About the Author

photo of James Cartreine, PhD

James Cartreine, PhD, Contributing Editor

Dr. Cartreine is a clinical psychologist, interactive media producer, and researcher. He is an Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and teaches CBT to psychiatry residents. Dr. Cartreine is affiliated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, … See Full Bio
View all posts by James Cartreine, PhD


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kym berlin
May 27, 2016

Great article. I learned a lot from the info ! Does someone know if I could acquire a blank CA SC-100 copy to type on ?

May 9, 2016

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May 8, 2016

It’s like a rollercoaster, you feel the wave coming on, realize you’ll eventually come out of it thank you for sharing

Andrew Verrijdt
May 7, 2016

This may help to explain why stimulants like Modafinil have had some efficacy in treating depression.

The drug has been shown to boost cognitive ability somewhat (although these effects have been exaggerated beyond reason by the drug’s ‘trendiness’) so it makes sense that it could help to overcome some of the cognitive deficits caused by depression.

Very interesting.

-Andrew Verrijdt

May 6, 2016

Amen to previous post. It’s like a rollercoaster, you feel the wave coming on, realize you’ll eventually come out of it, so HOLD ON for the ride!
(Sticking with Paxil and talk therapy)

Tom Wootton
May 6, 2016

Those of us who understand how to function during depressive episodes find advantages in the way our minds work. It is too bad studies only focus on those who have not yet learned how to use depressive states. The primary limitation of the study is they only study people with no ability to function during episodes. You would conclude that cars have no utility too if you only studied people who cannot drive.

The secondary problem with the study is the assumption that the only way to solve the first problem is to use tools only designed to make depression go away. While tools to lower the intensity of states outside of one’s comfort zone are an important part of moving toward functionality during states, such tools alone will never get someone to full functionality during future episodes. I am happy to share the tools needed if you are interested.

The tertiary issue is basing success on memory and attention for irrelevant (to the state) topics. If you ask a skilled depressive to recall details from previous depressions you will find their memories are enhanced. You will also find skilled depressives have enhanced decision-making abilities during states. Nonetheless, if you tested a trained depressive even with the mistaken cognitive measurements you will find much less dysfunction than you find with the untrained subjects in the study. You will even find that some of us are better at those skills during depressive states.

But testing a depressive for such skills is like testing a car driver’s ability to walk. They are not the primary advantages of depression. If you test for empathy, compassion or meaning-of-life issues you will find trained depressives are way ahead of everyone in those skills. If you want to truly understand depression you need to start learning from those of us who know how to function during it.

May 8, 2016

Tom, I find your thoughts and experience with depression most enlightening. I have a family member that has suffered with Bipolar
disease for decades. During his manic phases, he was extremely
successful with one restaurant after another.

Sadly, during these phases, he was medicating with alcohol and cocaine.
The domino effect enabled his demise. Along the way, he not only
hurt himself, but his family as well. Erratic thinking and behavior had
unfortunately put him in tenuous legal positions.

To this day, I don’t understand why it took so long for a clinician to diagnose
his condition and to provide him with a proper treatment plan.
Fortunately, the last five or so years have been a turn around story for
him due to the proper therapist and medication.

As one who “gets it”, I would appreciate learning more about the tools
that you mentioned in your post. Your insight would be most welcome.
Also, congratulations for learning and understanding how to manage
your depression.

Commenting has been closed for this post.

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