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Depression and Dog Ownership - moved from other thread

Further to Evie's request that this be taken to the chat area I have taken the liberty of copying over the section on depression (and dog ownership from the other thread, it was quite straightforward as there was no talk of books amongst any of it apart from Evie's inital post which sparked the conversation (which I have edited just to show the section which started things off) so if one of the admins wants to delete the offending section from the other thread now!  Smile

Evie Posted: Sat Jan 02, 2010 12:02 pm    
I find concentration difficult - a side-effect of depression, with which I have a constant battle, and it's been a fairly bad year with it - but I aim to try to read more carefully, whatever I end up reading.

Caro Posted: Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:22 pm    
Sorry to hear that your depression was bad last year, Evie, and hope this year will be a happier one for you.  I have (more or less) never suffered from depression, but still find concentration very difficult.  I used to think it was just that as I got older I didn't put the effort in, and that may be true to a degree, but I remember when I sat exams at university and school, I had problems concentrating for the full time and my mind would wonder for half an hour and then I would run out of time.  Which may have been partly why my results - good enough - weren't really good enough.

Now I sit down to read for half an hour and am up at the computer or the kettle in a few minutes.  Or deciding a little puzzle would be a good idea.

Cheers, Caro.

Evie Posted: Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:46 pm    
Thanks, Caro.  It does affect my reading, and I hate that - my reading rate has really dropped off this year, and I have trouble remembering what I have read - though as you say, it could just be that I am getting older!!

I do want to try to read things more thoroughly this year.

MikeAlx Posted: Sun Jan 03, 2010 9:42 am    
I've had much the same problem this year (not quite full-blown depression, but I've certainly been struggling to remain upbeat at times). It's been very hard to focus on anything. I've tried reading lighter stuff, but have often found it unrewarding. Hopefully things will improve this year!

Mikeharvey Posted: Sun Jan 03, 2010 10:56 am    
I used to suffer from depression and anxiety, the depression has gone but I still take medication for anxiety - getting palpitations and sinking feelings in tummy etc. Since my partner died in September 2006 I tend to wake up with a feeling of 'Oh God.. another day', but once I'm out of bed and start on the duties of the day (like those characters in 'The Gondoliers') I'm not too bad.  Thank goodness for books and friends and music and the theatre and the cinema. And a lovely day like today.  I do sympathise with anyone who suffers from depression or anxiety. It does go away after a while.

I once had a year's psychotherapy for depression (so-called) at University College Hospital.  The best moment was when I was talking to my therapist and he yawned!!  And once coming away from a session I got stuck in a lift for half-an hour and managed to extricate myself by climbing through a gap.  I regarded it as a sort of metaphor for my condition and its cure. I told my therapist all about it and he showed no interest whatsoever.

Evie Posted: Sun Jan 03, 2010 11:04 am    
I have struggled with it since my teens, and it simply won't go away!  Though it does get better at times, and rarely do I sink to the depths I reached in my early 20s.  I nearly failed my finals at university, and didn't sit two of my exams, but an excellent GP (who had seen me for a couple of years before that and knew me well), and a fabulous personal tutor, got me through - very disappointing result, but at least I got a degree.  It is a horrid thing, because no one really understands, however kind they are - they think you can pull yourself out of it, or do nice things to make yourself feel better, etc, but nothing takes away the utter leadenness and inability to focus.  I have been treated with drugs, psychotherapy, and spent a year going to a day hospital when I graduated, but nothing has really made much difference - I would still love to find a good therapist, but currently don't have the funds to pay for one!  I am not starting the new year in great mental shape, but I have certainly been worse.  I think moving house was a mistake.

However, in terms of reading, I just keep trying, as I do want to read serious literature again - just have to wait for the energy to return!  And do what I can to push my way through the fog.

Ann Posted: Sun Jan 03, 2010 11:42 am    
I'd heard that doctors had found reading a help with depression so I googled and came up with this link which I had to post here. I think the picture of Sarah Palin is enough to bring anyone down! I hope this is not being insensitive because one of my daughters suffers and I have a lot of empathy and sympathy about the condition.

Last edited by Ann on Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:28 pm; edited 1 time in total

Evie Posted: Sun Jan 03, 2010 12:13 pm    
Hmm, not sure about reading too many self-help books - but the Sarah Palin photo is good for a laugh, perhaps that's part of the therapy!!

It reminds me, though, that I need to finish reading a book I began months ago, based on the Myers Briggs system - which remains the only thing that has really given me any long-term help.  Thanks to the late, much lamented PhilipTom for that recommendation (it's OK, he's not dead, just not here!), and to another poster here for introducing me to Myers Briggs some years ago!

Green Jay Posted: Sun Jan 03, 2010 4:33 pm  
Sorry to hear about this, Evie, and also that you think moving, which is such an upheaval, was not the right thing to do. I do sympathise and hope that everything works out better soon, even if only with it being the spring and more warmth and daylight!

I have experienced acute depression several times in my life and think I have a slight tendency to it now, though only a mild reclusiveness and apathy and not being able to enjoy or appreciate things I know I should be able to. My dad, who is very old and quite poorly, seems to me to get depressed in  the winter months now, so maybe it's hereditary. My mum thinks he should just pull himself together - shes always been a very positive and active person and can't understand. But then he's old and ill and life isn't frankly a bowl of cherries for him, what could he look on the bright side about?

I've never had treatment, but had to study psychotherapy for a while (about it, not to practice it) and all the books write with reverence about the therapist and their almost magical relationship with the client, but at the same time everyone I know who has had therapy tells me dreadful tales about the practitioners, like Mike's comments above - either manipulative and exploitative or just inattentive and careless.

Green Jay Posted: Sun Jan 03, 2010 4:42 pm    
By the way, what is the Myers Briggs system?

MikeAlx Posted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:06 pm    
There was some research a couple of years back which found that reading poetry was just as effective as Prozac at treating depression. However, when my wife had clinical depression (many years back now) she could not read at all. In fact she could scarcely get out of bed. It put her degree behind by a year, though she did get very good results in the end (narrowly missed out on a first).

Exercise is also supposed to be good (perhaps part of the dog phenomenon!), but of course the lack of energy problem makes this difficult, and it's not always possible for people with health problems etc.

Evie Posted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:17 pm    
Yes, I have certainly been in the 'can't get out of bed let alone do anything as energetic as reading' state in the past - I did wonder how they expected depressed people to read books!  Though I am sure this misguided treatment is aimed at milder forms of the illness.

It's interesting how many of us have suffered from clinical depression - I wonder if there is a link between depression and reading?!

In the classical world and in the Renaissance, melancholia was closely linked with genius...     Wink

iwishiwas Posted: Tue Jan 05, 2010 10:11 pm    
It seems to be a topic which is discussed a lot more at this time of year for obvious reasons. Depression is not something I have suffered from in the past but I do feel closer to it as I get older. Christmas and January I seem to dread more each year. I do agree with you Apple about getting out with the dog each day, it can be an effort but is always worth it. Do you find people are more friendly to you when you have a dog in tow? I am often left wondering why this is so.

Sandraseahorse Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 8:04 am    
I'm sorry to hear about your problems, Evie.  I don't really feel competent in this field to offer any advice except, as Apple says, sometimes it helps to talk about these things.

Green Jay Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 4:03 pm    
Perhaps depression is just very common, whether people have had actual diagnosis and treatment or have just let it go by, like me, fighting it and denying that that was what it was - or not recognising it at the time as it did not have what I thought were "typical" symptoms. I have never been paralysed into the can't get out of bed state, but do recognise putting on a front all the time until you feel unreal. Thus weeping on trains seemed quite a low point for me, as I couldn't even put on a front at that stage.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, where low light levels and few daylight hours are meant to add to problems, seems quite common. I could never live somewhere with very short or no winter daylight. Sussex is bad enough in winter for me! As I get older I like winter less and less and dread it rather. When I was under 25 or so I met every season with relish for its changes. Equally, I would not like to live in a static climate like S. California. I like my changing seasons (could do with just three, not winter) and my weather, so long as they are not too extreme.

And today we're snowed in down here, and my heating boiler broke down at the weekend and no one can get out ot fix it. Reminds me of my childhood, only one warm room and lots of layers on. Cooking in hat and gloves. No hot water is a b****r, though.

Apple Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 11:38 pm    
iwishiwas Wrote:
I do agree with you Apple about getting out with the dog each day, it can be an effort but is always worth it. Do you find people are more friendly to you when you have a dog in tow? I am often left wondering why this is so.

I don't think its the fact people are more friendly when you have a dog, its more like people are more suspicious of you if you haven't got a dog especially if you walk over fields and public footpaths and off the main roads and the like, men are immediately classified as being up to no good if they are seen wandering along public footpaths alone with no obvious purpose and if a middle aged man walks through the local park then all eyes are following his every move if he is alone. Whereas if you have a dog in tow the reason you are there is obvious and you immediately become less of a threat.

I think it also depends on the type of dog you have,
Having said all that where I walk though and at the times I walk I tend to be in a routine and see the same people most days with their dogs, and we all know each other by sight, no-one knows anyones name but everyone knows the dogs names!!

Evie Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:24 am  
Thanks for everyone's comments and kindness about depression - it's been interesting and definitely helpful to hear everyone's experiences and thoughts!  I struggle with dogs - sometimes spend a week or two looking after my brother's two English springer spaniels, and very quickly end up screaming, sometimes at them - but can see how rewarding other people find their dogs!

iwishiwas Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:10 pm  
Apple you are probably right about this suspicious culture which has become part of our daily living. Our children are always amused to hear my husband and I refer to people via their dogs name. Mrs Rex or Mr Meg etc. We do know the proper names of many people now and have made some good friends just by regular dog walking contact.
Evie I am also hoping to make an impression on the pile this year and am trying not to buy too much. (I say that every year!) I'm not making any definitive list but just choosing as the mood takes me.

Ann Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 5:03 pm    
did anyone see the fascinating Horizon on dogs last night? Mental and physical health have been proved to be better in dog owners.

MikeAlx       Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 7:17 pm    
Ann wrote:
Mental and physical health have been proved to be better in dog owners.

That doesn't necessarily prove cause and effect though. Perhaps depressive people feel less inclined to take on the responsibilities of dog ownership. Or perhaps there's a third factor that relates to both things.

Similarly, there is evidence that, among older men, those who exercise regularly are more likely to be healthy. But it's quite difficult to prove that exercise makes men healthier rather than that illness makes men less likely to exercise.

Apple Posted: Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 8:02 pm  
Evie Wrote:
I struggle with dogs - sometimes spend a week or two looking after my brother's two English springer spaniels, and very quickly end up screaming, sometimes at them - but can see how rewarding other people find their dogs!

Springer Spaniels are notoriously boisterous energetic dogs and can be a handful for anyone so I wouldn't take that as the norm with all dogs Springers are highly intelligent and yet in some ways highly stupid dizzy dogs and its not always a good combination!!

Mike - I believe there is a link between dog ownership and and mental health.  It has long be seen as therapy to send dogs into hospitals etc (PAT dogs) as therapy for patients and the like.  From a personal point of view its not just the exercise factor there is real theraputic value just to sitting stroking a dog its a very calming activity. Also there is the point that you get unconditional love from a dog no strings attached you show a dog love and affection and they will return that ten fold.

My doctor actually told me when I told him that since I had my dog I felt a bit better and didn't feel as bad as previously, that dogs were linked with positive therapy for depression and he was also pleased that I was getting off my backside and getting out for some exercise but thats another point entirely!

Well done, Apple, this is much better than me doing it!  And great that your dog has helped so much.
Green Jay

Yes, well done for reorganising all this, Apple. It is very interesting, but I can see it's not much to do with books.

I also saw that programme about research into dogs - and thought of this discussion. It was on all sorts of aspects of humans' links with dogs, which seem to go back much further than previously suspected. I wish it could have gone deeper into fewer things, and that they had interviewed some owners of working dogs, like sheepdogs and guide dogs, rather than, or as well as, what looked like soppy urban pet lovers who clearly anthropomorphised their dogs. (Not that I don't with  my cat!  Very Happy )

I do recommend the programme, on catch-up TV, if you have it. It was Horizon. I'm not a dog lover but it was fascinating in terms of developmental skills, behavioural science etc.

The therapy aspect was researched and showed spikes of oxytocin production when beginning to stroke dogs, even if it's not your own dog. This is what leads to lowered heart rate and blood pressure, which is why petting dogs, and rabbits,  are sometimes used with hospital patients. Oxytocin is what is produced in massage sessions  - which is why simple massage techniques have been used as a way of improving school behaviour in primary schools - long lines of kids doing simple massage on the back and head, over the clothes, of the kid in front, just the same way we used to do up our back-buttoned school dresses and plait each others' hair!  Also oxytocin is linked to Transcendental Meditation, which is why it is supposed to be of universal good, not just for its practitioners. Funny old world! How do I acquire such odd bits of knowledge?

If you are interested, Green Jay, I would recommend reading Man Meets Dog by Konrad Lorenz. I have recommended him before here but he is very good. This book goes deeply into both dog and cat behaviour (despite the title) and is fascinating. It describes many of the phenomena mentioned on the programme and goes much deeper. It might be worth searching on Abe Books as it might be out of print.

Ann I don't think I have any issues with the behaviour of my car!!!

Embarassed Quick edit

haha  Wink

This is nothing about dog ownership and not a lot to do with depression but I was very interested by this article in the Times this morning and thought it was vaguely relevant to some of the things we had discussed here:

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