26th April 11:56
Stimulants, Rats and Long-Term Prognosis (was Re: Ritalin kids doomed ... (depression)
Ok, I'll give it a shot.....It was a researcher named Seligman I believe in
the 1970's that coined the term "Learned Helplessness Theory". As I recall,
he used classical (often called "Pavlovian") conditioning where he put dogs
in a cage, and they had to learn to avoid a shock. When the dogs somehow (I
forget the actual experiment) could not avoid the shock (i.e, they were
"helpless") they exhibited certain behaviors such as psycho-motor agitation,
failure to try to avoid the shock anyway, etc. They lost their desire to
eat, sleeping patterns changed, etc. Symptoms similar to depression in
humans. The whole ideas is that the animal should learn an avoidance
response, which these dogs I think, failed to do. The whole idea behind
classical conditioning is that the subject should learn (cognitively) to be
motivated enough to engage in an avoidance response (behavior) to the
unwanted stimuli (the shock). This typically results in a positive reward
(usually food). I think a conclusion was that since the dogs learned that
nothing they could do would influence whether or not they received the
adversive stimuli ( which one might correlate to being helpless against
recurring trauma), they lost motivation to even try. Since they failed to
do this, Seligman, and later a researcher named Weiss, correlated these
findings to depression in humans. I think Weiss or Seligman also worked with
Well, that's perhaps not a very clear way of describing it, but that's what
I remember! It was a radical departure from theories at the time....
OK, another few thoughts...
Learned Helplessness in depression in HUMAN's usually has to do with how a
person perceives the events around her, whether or not she has control over
them, and how she interprets, cognitively, the cause/effect of things. It's
often related to self-esteem, which is, of course, closely linked to
depression. If a child perceives that no matter what they do, they will be
considered "bad", or "guilty", or that their actions don't have a direct
impact on things in their lives, then they kind of give up trying, and that
is called Learned Helplessness.
People who put off doing things because they don't think the results will be
directly related to their actions are said to have learned helplessness.
This is often related to the same types of people who suffer from
depression. Sometimes in abusive relationships, women will blame themselves
for the abuse. Such people tend to blame negative things on themselves, "It
was my fault", while they attribute positive outcomes to magical thinking
such as good luck, or on outside forces, but not their own actions. People
who don't have confidence in their ability to problem-solve, simply will
avoid doing ANYTHING. So that is translated into helplessness.
I hope this explains it a little bit. I'm sure there is a lot I have not
included, but that's a general idea.