Many LessWrong users are depressed. On the most recent survey, 18.2% of respondents had been formally diagnosed with depression, and a further 25.5% self-diagnosed with depression. That adds up to nearly half of the LessWrong userbase.
One common treatment for depression is talk therapy. Jonah Sinick writes:
Talk therapy has been shown to reduce depression on average. However:
- Professional therapists are expensive, often charging on order of $120/week if one's insurance doesn't cover them.
- Anecdotally, highly intelligent people find therapy less useful than the average person does, perhaps because there's a gap in intelligence between them and most therapists that makes it difficult for the therapist to understand them.
House of Cards by Robyn Dawes argues that there's no evidence that licensed therapists are better at performing therapy than minimally trained laypeople. The evidence therein raises the possibility that one can derive the benefits of seeing a therapist from talking to a friend.
This requires that one has a friend who:
- is willing to talk with you about your emotions on a regular basis
- you trust to the point of feeling comfortable sharing your emotions
Some reasons to think that talking with a friend may not carry the full benefits of talking with a therapist are
- Conflict of interest — Your friend may be biased for reasons having to do with your pre-existing relationship – for example, he or she might be unwilling to ask certain questions or offer certain feedback out of concern of offending you and damaging your friendship.
- Risk of damaged relationship dynamics — There's a possibility of your friend feeling burdened by a sense of obligation to help you, creating feelings of resentment, and/or of you feeling guilty.
- Risk of breach of confidentiality — Since you and your friend know people in common, there's a possibility that your friend will reveal things that you say to others who you know, that you might not want to be known. In contrast, a therapist generally won't know people in common with you, and is professionally obliged to keep what you say confidential.
Depending on the friend and on the nature of help that you need, these factors may be non-issues, but they're worth considering when deciding between seeing a therapist and talking with a friend.
One idea for solving the problems with talking to a friend is to find someone intellectually similar to you who you don't know--say, someone else who reads LessWrong.
This is a thread for doing that. Please post if you're either interested in using someone as a sounding board or interested in making money being a sounding board using Skype or Google Hangouts. If you want to make money talking to people, I suggest writing out a little resume describing why you might be a nice person to talk to, the time zone you're in, your age (age-matching recommended by Kate), and the hourly rate you wish to charge. You could include your location for improved internet call quality. You might also include contact info to decrease trivial inconveniences for readers who haven't registered a LW account. (I have a feeling that trivial inconveniences are a bigger issue for depressed people.) To help prevent email address harvesting, the convention for this thread is if you write "Contact me at [somename]", that's assumed to mean "my email is [somename]@gmail.com".
Please don't be shy about posting if this sounds like a good fit for you. Let's give people as many options as possible.
I guess another option for folks on a budget is making reciprocal conversation arrangements with another depressed person. So feel free to try & arrange that in this thread as well. I think paying someone is ideal though; listening to depressed people can sometimes be depressing.
BlahTherapy is an interesting site that sets you up with strangers on the internet to talk about your problems with. However, these strangers likely won't have the advantages of high intelligence or shared conceptual vocabulary LessWrong users have. Fortunately we can roll our own version of BlahTherapy by designating "lesswrong-talk-to-someone" as the Schelling interest on Omegle.com. (You can also just use lesswrong as an interest, there are sometimes people on. Or enter random intellectual interests to find smart people to talk to.)
I haven't had very good results using sites like BlahTherapy. I think it's because I only sometimes find someone good, and when they don't work, I end up more depressed than I started. Reaching out in hopes of finding a friend and failing is a depressing experience. So I recommend trying to create a stable relationship with regularly scheduled conversations. I included BlahTherapy and Omegle because they might work well for some people and I didn't want to extrapolate strongly from n=1.
There's also the How to Get Therapy series from LW-sphere blog Gruntled & Hinged. It's primarily directed at people looking for licensed therapists, but may also have useful tips if you're just looking for someone to talk to. The biggest tip I noticed was to schedule a relaxing activity & time to decompress after your conversation.
I apologize for including so many ideas, but I figured it was better to suggest a variety of approaches so the community can collectively identify the most effective solutions for the rationalist depression epidemic. In general, when I'm depressed, I notice myself starting and stopping activities in a very haphazard way, repeatedly telling myself that the activity I'm doing isn't the one I "should" be doing. I've found it pretty useful to choose one activity arbitrarily and persist in it for a while. This is often sufficient to bootstrap myself out of a depressed state. I'd recommend doing the same here: choose an option and put a nontrivial amount of effort into exploring it before discarding it. Create a todo list and bulldoze your way down it.
Good luck. I'm rooting for you!
Legal note: Talking to unlicensed people over the internet is not a substitute for professional help. If you are depressed you should visit a licensed therapist.