One aspect of depression not often discussed publicly is the use of depression as a defense.
Originally in our evolution depression probably was of some defensive use when it kept us spending the winter and dark in the back of the cave where we may have been safe. However, many now show the need to keep their depression by not utilizing possible help. They may avoid anti-depressive medication to lift them out of enough of their depression so that they can think and talk about what is depressing them or they avoid psychotherapy.
Avoiding talking to a therapist about what we feel, think, and do can help keep us from some immediate anxiety but in the longer run, this process of unconsciously motivated silence that depression can be, can keep us from having a more comfortable life. Having a comfortable life may be exactly what we cannot allow ourself to experience. Our parents may have unwittingly and unwillingly passed on to us their own inability to comfortably enjoy life. We may not be able to easily free ourself of the guild of having a better chance than our parents and we may unconsciously avoid having "the good."
Depression comes for many reasons and medicine may not be an answer for some people; unperceived needs for the restraints of depression, may for some, be a way that people unwittingly avoid being able to act or think. They are trying to avoid anxiety and inner pain. Therefore their symptom is at least partially defensive. People cannot simply switch a defense off or on. They develop over time and outside of our conscious control.
Not all depressions are in defense - but when used as a defense we may observe the person's lack of apparent interest in relieving the depression. Some people who need but refuse medication may be among those who are unconsciously using depression as a defense. People who refuse verbal psychotherapy for their depressive tendencies may be afraid to touch upon the feelings and memories that underlay the depression.
Fear of lifting a depression is not a weakness or an expression of a lack of ability. Lifting a depression can mean touching upon painful memories or perceptions for which one will need therapy before they can deal with their pain non-destructively.
Compulsive acts and obsessive thoughts also can be a defense helping the possessor to avoid focusing upon the underlay of anxiety generating feelings. OCD and depression can also be, in part, a way of punishing oneself and those others involved in our life. Our misery may seem to generate from the OCD and/or depression when actually, for some, these symptoms may be a disguised way of expressing feelings we do not recognize.
The lack of energy around some depressions may be used to avoid activity that is more upsetting to the possessor than the depression or OCD. Sex, work, school, intimate social contact may all be blocked or prevented by defensive depression, and/or the use of obsessive-compulsive mechanisms.
Organic depression can also be used as a defense but it has a physical cause. A psychogenic depression is caused by our interpretations of experience rather than how our chemical processes work.
Depression, OCD, phobias, and many other symptoms can function to defend us from consolidating the connections between our feelings that would allow us to see and control the underlying data that makes us act and feel as we do.
Depression also can be an outgrowth of the unconscious repression of anger. We may feel hopeless about perceiving that which we are angry about and this hopelessness combined with chronic feelings of frustration may keep us depressed.
Depression can be a way of preventing ourself from acting assertively, feeling strongly and being what we want to be but which we unconsciously feel is forbidden to us.
Interpersonal psychoanalytic psychotherapy, sometimes with medications, sometimes without medication, may help us to want to live our life, or make our life more livable. Find "goodness" - it can be out there and available if we can let oneself be open in our discussions with our therapist and our group members.
If we can be in a therapist-led group it is important that we talk as openly as possible. It is good to have the same therapist for both group and individual therapy so that one doesn't "hide" in the group by avoiding revealing oneself, and to have a place to talk in your individual session about what you are not yet ready to present to a group.
Depression, OCD, and many forms of psychological pain may be amenable to change if we are willing to tolerate the time and discomforts of trying change with an insightful, motivated therapist. Good luck.
Dr. Lehrer, Psychologist