Depression is more than low mood – it’s a change of consciousness

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EXCERPTS: As another person said to the psychologist Dorothy Rowe, recorded in her book The Experience of Depression (1978): ‘I awoke into a different world. It was as though all had changed while I slept: that I awoke not into normal consciousness but into a nightmare.’

Such reports support the idea that depression stands apart from other forms of everyday experience, as the philosopher Matthew Ratcliffe has emphasised in his book Experiences of Depression (2015). Depressed people often say it involves a fundamental shift, like entering a different ‘world’ – a world detached from ordinary reality and other people.

Depression seems to be a more totalising kind of experience than some others. Perhaps it is even a distinct state of consciousness, and can, in turn, reveal something about the nature of consciousness itself.

The self-reports of people with depression point to a deep and interesting connection with consciousness. To make sense of this idea, think about the effect of sleeping and dreaming on your mental life, or the experience of emerging from dreamless sleep into wakeful consciousness.

In these transitions, our consciousness undergoes a profound structural shift. Consider, for example, how your experience of the passage of time when dreaming diverges from your experience of time when awake: we frequently experience days and weeks passing in a dream in the space of a few waking hours.

Similarly, our sense of self and identity is highly malleable in the dream: we sometimes perceive ourselves from the ‘outside’ looking down at our bodies, dream of being someone other than ourselves, or dream of being detached from a body altogether.

Similar sorts of structural changes to conscious experience occur after taking psychedelics...

[...] Neuroscientists and philosophers of consciousness have recently coined a new term – the global state of consciousness – to describe the structural properties of experience that varies between ordinary wakefulness, dreaming, the psychedelic state and the minimally conscious state. These states are called ‘global’ because the whole of conscious experience is altered, not just a particular element.

The fine detail of what we experience in everyday waking life changes all the time (sounds, colours, odours all come and go), but the structure stays largely fixed: I feel myself to be present in the world, at the centre of an integrated, coherent point of view; time carries on flowing at the same rate; space has the same geometric structure. The global state is this overarching structure and ordinarily stays constant as particular experiences pass us by. When we dream, take psychedelics or suffer a brain injury, this structure can be altered, and we enter a different global state.

Could depression belong in this family too? What people with depression describe as their ‘world’ or their ‘nightmare’ might be a distinctive global state, in which some of the structural pillars of ordinary experience (such as the sense of self, space and time) are distorted. Not a ‘dream’ or a ‘trip’, but a state that belongs in the same group.

One clear and telling theme in reports of depression is the idea of inhabiting or falling into another ‘world’ or ‘place’. ‘For me, depression was a place,’ wrote the late journalist Sally Brampton in a 2003 article in The Telegraph. ‘The landscape is cold and black and empty. It is more terrifying and more horrible than anywhere I have ever been, even in my nightmares.’

We’d suggest this talk isn’t merely metaphorical. While depressed people are not literally in a different world, they are in a different state of consciousness – one they can become awake to and, hopefully, awake from.

Seeing depression along with other altered global states of consciousness is a theoretical rather than a clinical shift – but it could make a difference to how we treat depression further along the line... (MORE - missing details)
Magical Realist Online
The worse part of depression is the utter despair...the loss of all hope of it getting any better. It's how suicide can be considered a viable option. This is ofcourse all a seductive delusion because everything gets better eventually if you can just wait it out. But the suffering seems unending. Depression is a temporary blindness to the presence of possibility.

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