Nick_Roy

Nick_Roy's Comments

Can we talk about mental illness?

If you do decide to try it, start with a very low dose.

Can we talk about mental illness?

Where this chain of reasoning breaks down for me is in the "without resistance" phase of "take right action without resistance". If the resistance, both conscious and unconscious, is too strong, there will be no right action taken, whether I will it or no. So what I do instead is undermine the resistance itself. This is my precondition for taking right action. Do you see what I mean? Wu-wei prevents hedonism if wu-wei is essential to hedonism but there can be no wu-wei.

Can we talk about mental illness?

The similarity between our approaches is as you say: the realization that akrasia defeats frontal assaults with heavy casualties. The difference is that you are doing something like the "take right action without resistance" approach that I've encountered before in Buddhism, which matches up nicely with anhedonia (personally I am a hedonist, so this does not work for me); while I am attempting to root out the basic causes of my akrasia, down to the very sources, to change the way I feel in the first place. Both approaches have their merits, and I agree that proper choice of approach relative to the individual depends on factors like personality and culture. Have you encountered any other indirect approaches to defeating akrasia, as we are attempting at present?

Can we talk about mental illness?

Two Disclaimers: First, I am not a doctor. Second, beware of other-optimizing. This advice is working well for me, but it may not work well for others.

The depression became obvious and major enough that I was forced to take action to stop it. The rationalizations had run dry, so I fully realized in both System 1 and System 2 that I was not "unmotivated", I was mentally ill. Years of life hacks and half-assed lifestyle interventions had accomplished some, but not enough, so it was time for medications, which I had previously feared due to bad experiences with bupropion years earlier.

The constraints in my investigation: something effective for major depressive disorder in both the short-term to fight what I was then feeling and in the long-term to prevent relapse, non-serious side effects, anxiolytic properties, as there is comorbid OCD and social anxiety disorder (SA, also this is why I chose medications before psychotherapy), and a reasonable price. Tianeptine met these constraints, with the nice bonus of plausibly being a cognitive enhancer.

Within six weeks of use, the tianeptine decreased the depression such that it was time to focus on the next most serious drag on my productivity and happiness: OCD. Not being majorly depressed allowed me to develop exercise and meditation habits that reduced the OCD down to a similarly manageable level. The anxiolytic effects of the tianeptine and the reduced stress of not being seriously depressed probably also helped.

The depression and OCD were still there and still a nuisance, but they had become minor enough that it was time to continue prioritizing elsewhere. By then tianeptine's anxiolytic properties had faded to mildness due to tolerance, though it has continued to be effective as an antidepressant that at least does not increase anxiety, which was my primary issue with bupropion.

Next on the list was either SA or an uncontrollable sleep cycle, both being about equally problematic. I chose to address the sleep cycle first because modafinil immediately came to mind as a plausible treatment, plus we've all heard of its reputation as an anti-akratic. In hindsight, I should have thought about this more thoroughly before leaping into it. Availability bias at work. Anxiety is an uncommon side effect, but I decided to take the risk. In hindsight, I ought to have realized that for people already dealing with multiple anxiety disorders, that anxiety side effect probably becomes a lot more more common. A statistics fail on my part.

So, I tried modafinil to control my sleep cycle and reduce akrasia, and instead I produced the unshakable certainty that unnamed, unseen monsters were out to get me. Whoops. Looks like my suspicion was correct that I have subclinical generalized anxiety disorder, because the modafinil had exacerbated it to unacceptable levels. The stress of experiencing this also triggered a depression relapse, so I then took myself off the modafinil. Soon enough I recovered to where I had been before trying it.

This leads me to the present. Now I am faced again with the choice of confronting either the sleep cycle problem, SA, or both. My System 1 is wary of fighting the sleep cycle again just yet after being burned last time, so SA it is. I have already taken the edge off, because of social skills training I started months ago and because of the interventions I've taken against OCD, but it is still serious enough to pursue a pharmacological solution.

First on my To Be Scrutinized list is kratom, as I have already been taking theanine for years now. I will investigate effectiveness, safety, cost, and personal fit. Whatever I try, I will also attempt exposure therapy alongside the anxiolytic effects of a medication. If I am successful, I will next have another go at fixing the sleep cycle, then I will either consider my options regarding the notoriously untreatable fact that I am on the autistic spectrum, or else move on to address the much decreased but still niggling depression and OCD.

Can we talk about mental illness?

Agreed. Personal anecdote: once I redefined my "motivation problem" as a "depression and anxiety problem" a number of months ago, and began treating this depression and anxiety instead of wearily trying out yet another willpower hack, I have made more progress in being motivated in months than I had in the previous years.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 113

Your point on a description of Harry's thinking is well-taken. I just had my brother submit this as a review, to err on the side of caution:

"With NickRoy's permission, I am submitting his solution, which I agree with, with additional evidence appended, just in case that is necessary; so consider this as superseding NickRoy's submission:

[the relevant text is here in the submission, but I don't need to repeat it in this comment]

Appended:

Harry does not know the full prophecy for certain, but he can guess it, based on: Harry's thought on star lifting in response to this prophecy in Ch. 21, Harry noticing Quirrelmort's interest in the same prophecy in Ch. 86, Quirrelmort's talk of the stars' vulnerability to "sufficiently intelligent idiocy" in Ch. 95, Firenze's comment on the stars and Harry's innocence in Ch. 101, Voldemort's "while the stars yet live" remark in Ch. 111, Voldemort's more explicit talk on the prophecy and his great fear of it in the next chapter, and how the Unbreakable Vow is framed in the most recent chapter. If Harry connects these dots, he'll have a good idea of what the full prophecy says.

As for how Harry connects these dots: he runs with the hypothesis (quickly, as he did in Ch. 104): "I am to destroy the world [I don't have to explain why this idea stands out to him] in some way that is not actually bad", since if he were to destroy the world in a way that really is bad, but this may be preventable, he probably should die immediately instead! My first thought on this line of thinking (since "Harry is allowed to solve this problem the way I would solve it") is: "well, someday Earth ought to be converted into computronium for hedonium purposes, though the Sun is much more massive, and then we have the nearby stars... Oh".

Also, on Voldemort's response: Voldemort would be skeptical, but he would also be interested, because "It is impossible to tell lies in Parseltongue" and because all this persuasion has to do is raise the risk enough that it makes more sense to stop and gather more information before killing Harry, thus it "allows Harry to evade immediate death"."

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 113

Voldemort would be skeptical, yes, but he would also be interested, because "6. It is impossible to tell lies in Parseltongue" and because all this speech has to do is raise the risk enough that it makes more sense to stop and gather more information before killing Harry, thus it "allow[s] Harry to evade immediate death". What do you think would improve the believability?

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 113

Sure. Along with the centaur evidence, there's: Harry's thought on star lifting in response to this prophecy in Ch. 21, Harry noticing Quirrelmort's interest in the same prophecy in Ch. 86, Quirrelmort's talk of the stars' vulnerability to "sufficiently intelligent idiocy" in Ch. 95, Voldemort's "while the stars yet live" remark in Ch. 111, Voldemort's more explicit talk on the prophecy and his great fear of it in the next chapter, and how the Unbreakable Vow is framed in the most recent chapter. If Harry connects these dots, he'll have a good idea of what the full prophecy says.

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