Is there freewill in major depression and suicide?

Discussion in 'Suicidal Thoughts and Feelings' started by jameslyons, Mar 1, 2009.


Are the depressed capable of expressing freewill in their struggle against suicide?

  1. Yes, for the most part

    15 vote(s)
  2. No, for the most part

    7 vote(s)
  3. It depends on the depression - heavy - no, light - yes

    8 vote(s)
  4. I don't know

    5 vote(s)
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  1. jameslyons

    jameslyons Well-Known Member

    There is one particular statistic about suicide that has always bothered me: "The majority of suicides suffer from at least one mental illness; 85% of cases suffer from one form of depression. "

    I often wonder why it is that society has no problem excusing the behavior of a schizophrenic suffering from delusions, but continue to pretend that those of us who suffer from depression and the self-destructive urges, ranging from self-harm to suicide, are merely giving into the disease. That we've had free will all along, and to submit to one of those urges is just a wanton act of disregard for others around you.

    Why do we say that schizophrenics are unable to help and occasionally act on their hallucinations, but depressants are expressing free will when they give in to their urges -- urges which most depressed people feel compelled to do by the disease. My reasons for suicide are almost always excuses I have to come up with for why I feel so bad. It's feeling like killing myself, followed by coming up with an excuse for it.

    So my question is: Should we as depressed and suicidal people, tell the world to start disregarding the concept of free will in discussing our struggles against suicidal impulses? I just can't help but feel it's similar to an oncologist berating his patient with leukemia for giving in.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 1, 2009
  2. worlds edge

    worlds edge Well-Known Member

    Where do you get the idea that "the world" doesn't already do this? And in fact doesn't go quite a bit beyond this, in the sense that "the world" presumes what it considers an irrational idea (suicide, suicide attempts, ideation, etc.) by extension considers the individual suffering from such thoughts to be irrational across the board?

    I might dig into this a bit more later on, but I guess I'm just not as interested in these topics as was once upon a time.
  3. Feared.Desire

    Feared.Desire Well-Known Member

    No. I don’t really think we have any ‘freewill’ per say, because freewill suggests we are in control of our thoughts and emotions, which we clearly are not.
    If we had control over our emotions we would not still be depressed.
    And if we were not depressed our thoughts would not be limited to only negative ones.

    I’m really tired, I don’t know if that got the pointed I wanted across, but hopefully you get what I mean …
  4. shades

    shades Staff Alumni

    Interesting and mostly logical points of discussion! I feel that there is freewill in major depression, because I've been in and out of it (with meds and without; with therapy and without) for 25 + years and I'm still here. I've thought about suicide and methods many times, but I'm still here. I believe that depression can be fought off with help, I,m not so sure about schizopehria, severe bi-polar disorder and other forms of mental illness which I believe are not the same as major depression, although one could most certainly become depressed because of them. RE: how the world looks at it-I don't think they do. They do not have the intelligence to discern the difference. Therapists, on the other hand, may have a different take on it, similar to way I explained it above. If you have the time to come up with and excuse for killing yourself because you feel like it, then it appears that you most certainly have free will. Also, I disagree with your final analysis re: the depression vs. leukemia issue because I believe that most with cancer actually want to live and don't want to give father didn't and several of his friends didn't give up either.
  5. jameslyons

    jameslyons Well-Known Member

    I've been a long time chronic sufferer of depression. I can honestly say that my personality and my desires are warped by the depression. In life I can honestly be a friendly, social, ambitious guy. But when depression descends I go bonkers... well you've seen my posts.

    Morose and dispondent, seem to have little to do with choice. I don't know about other people though, because I first suffered major depression and suicide as a child, and it's been with me ever since. Maybe people who have a period in their lives when they were happy have a different perspective.

    I just know that I'd really like to not have to feel suicidal. Over several attempts I've always felt compelled instead of wanting. I wonder how many survivors of suicide voted yes and how many people who've just contemplated voted no.

    I don't think cancer patients want to die. My uncle was cursed with one form or another from 16-43 when he passed. The guy was one of the funniest, vivacious people I had ever met. I didn't mean to imply that your relatives gave up.

    Therapy for me is a big waste of time... course I haven't been in a while. But as a kid, they either made me cry or did nothing at all.
  6. max0718

    max0718 Well-Known Member

    I think there is some free will involved in taking your own life as far as depression is concerned. But it really varies from case to case. I mean a person who is given a choice between being killed instantly or die a long painful death is always going to choose the quick and painless option. I think that is how I feel when I'm at my worst, that those are my only two options. Of course when I get better, I can see that thinking process was irrational. But in that moment I can't distinguish between rational and irrational, and I think that is what makes depression so dangerous. Sure you make the decision to kill yourself, but that decision is perhaps based on some very irrational and inaccurate assumptions that is caused by the depression.
  7. jameslyons

    jameslyons Well-Known Member

    That's so interesting! I really don't think of any other option. It's just like I'm a train running down some old tracks. No choice in the matter. Hmmm.
  8. Digital Angel

    Digital Angel Well-Known Member

    Free will doesn't exist at all. Mental illness affects your perception of choice however. So cherish it if you're still under the illusion of free will.
  9. Vanq

    Vanq Active Member

    The concept of free will is pretty much an incoherent superstition to begin with, whether you're talking about depression or anything else. We as depressed and suicidal people don't need to tell the world anything. In fact, it probably doesn't matter what we say, since anything we say can be dismissed with the usual ad hominems (i.e. "you're depressed therefore irrational therefore don't know what you're talking about"). It'll be neuroscientists who hammer the final nail in the coffin of the free will myth.
  10. fromthatshow

    fromthatshow Staff Alumni SF Supporter

    I think we've always got free will. No matter what happens, we always have control of our reactions.
    I believe depression is a reaction to life situation, not biological. Maybe it can show up physically but it starts emotionally. That's just my opinion.
    I certainly wish I knew the right choice to make to get me out of this terrible depression.
  11. Lovecraft

    Lovecraft Well-Known Member

    The illness of clinical depression is biological by accepted theory today. It's a problem with seretonin uptake at the synapses. It gets connected far more than it should, and thusly creates much more reaction than would be generated in a normal brain. It's more complex than that, but it's a good simple description. Mental illnesses usually gets explained as seretonin, norepinephrine or dopamime - or some combination - either being trigger happy and sending the same message more than it should be, or sitting around and not sending enough messages. Disorders in this can cause depression, paranoia and all sorts of other problems. Anti-depressants and similar medications try to alter the uptake of the neurotransmitters at the synapses.

    Clinical depression is biological in nature.
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