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Surrounded by assholes

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

“Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.”

not Freud or Gibson, but Notorious d.e.b. (@debihope)

Depression is probably risk factor for chronic pain (Thompson), and it can definitely feed back into the problem (Elbinoune), and yet, as Dr. James Coyne put it, “depression is actually often actually misdiagnosed IED (Inappropriate Environment Disorder).” And this applies equally to anxiety, I suspect. For instance, we know that macaques with low social status are treated very harshly and it has measurable effects on their immune systems (Snyder-Mackler): they are inflamed, they get more infections. Fascinating. And clearly their problem is that they are just surrounded by asshole macacques.

This is the kind of thing I mean when I cautiously counsel people to do their best to solve problems in their lives as a very basic defense against pain. I would never want to minimize the seriousness of mood disorders, but sometimes what looks like a mood disorder really is “just” a disheartening, stressful situation — and many crappy situations can be changed, sooner or later.

By the way, that charmingly acerbic quote about being “surrounded by assholes” appears to be routinely misattributed to William Gibson or Freud; concluded the origin is actually a Tweet by @debihope. Nice one.

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