What is the cause of depression? Are incidents of depression increasing? Can you cure depression with a bullet? None of these questions will be answered to your satisfaction, but Dr. Rob will nonetheless help dispel much of the myths and misinformation about clinical depression that come out of the other hosts’ mouths. All donations made through for the first week of this episode’s release will go directly to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Music: “My Melancholy Baby” by Django Reinhardt



26 Responses

    1. So completely this.

      My dad died very unexpectedly in 2010 and it still feels unreal 3 years later – I find myself reaching for the phone when I have a cooking question, or watching something on YouTube and thinking “omg, I -have- to show this to… dammit.” Couple that with a horrible job that routinely makes me cry and no luck finding anything else after 5 years of looking thanks to the recession, and I decided therapy would be a good idea. My therapist had the suggestion of getting blood work done to see if there was something else afoot, and zut alors! As it turns out, my vitamin D was in the crapper. A normal range is 30-80 (chunks per whatever), deficient is 20-29… and mine was 12.


      So I’ve been taking one big 50,000 IU horse pill once a week, and slowly normalizing. I find myself wanting to -do- things again – I actually finished an afghan I had started making for my mom in 2007. I even started another one! Crazy, this notion of doing things.

      Depression sucks hard, and I’m hoping for the day I’m back to normal.

  1. Hey there gentlemen,
    Listening to this podcast and the read listener mail at the top I remembered this ted talks about how comedy reinforces reason.
    The first couple of mins are slow so wait for it.

  2. This episode made me think of this article that recently came out: The evolutionary significance of depression in Pathogen Host Defense (PATHOS-D), (Raison CL, Miller AH. Mol Psychiatry. 2013) URL:
    The article is from molecular approach for depression rather then the behavioral aspects (i.e. this is not an adaptive approach). The authors assess a number of genes linked to both depression and the immune system that have genetic variations. The variations do not prevent the protein from functioning, but they have the potential to induce changes in levels of neurotransmitters and/or inflammatory response proteins that have been linked to depression. They reason that the genes has been evolutionary retained because the benefit of having an immune response has out weighed the depression.

  3. I just purchased Season 1 through iTunes 5 days ago. If I had known then what I know now about the donation to Canadian Mental Health Association I would have waited to purchase!

  4. Uplifting episode guys.

    Can’t depression be a rational reaction to a world that is extremely depressing?
    I think so.
    If you aren’t depressed you clearly aren’t paying attention.

    The Beaver is a fantastic movie. I thought it was very funny.

    I’m also a huge fan of the depressed robot.

    1. To be honest I think overall the world is getting better. The things we see as bad aren’t making us go backward, they’re making us go forward slower than we should.

      Things like Hans Rosling’s presentation at TED that really showed me that things are getting better all over, despite the horrors. It just feels too slow for those that have it “figured out”.

      And yes, sometimes the problems seem insurmountable, but I feel that going for a long walk sometimes: There’s no way I can reach where I want to go one step at a time, right? And then suddenly you’re halfway there, and it’s not as cold as you thought, and your music playlist just hit a really great mix…

      Doing Caustic Soda for three years — discussing the very worst things and laughing about it — has given me great perspective. My complaints are nothing compared to the awful, horrible things that happen and have happened in the world. When the checkout woman at the grocery story apologizes for the time it took, I point out that if that’s the worst thing I’ve got to complain about, I’m doing fine. “At least nobody’s shooting me in the streets for asking for basic democratic rights,” I’ll point out.

      Yeah, that gets me a look, but then agreement, even from people in line behind me.

      Who knew knowing a lot about horrible things could cheer you up?

      1. You have a very positive outlook Joe.

        I don’t really think things are getting better. It’s a center of gravity thing. Good and evil ebb and flow but the center of gravity keeps moving toward the evil side. Looking at history I see that mankind is capable of great love and kindness on the good side but evil knows no bounds, it never hits the bottom of the pit and can always go further into new and imaginative atrocities.

        I do enjoy looking at things through the lens of humor and that’s why I enjoy Caustic Soda so much. Keep up the good work. I look forward to each new episode (now that I’ve run out of old ones I haven’t listened to!).

  5. I’ve struggled with Depression for most of my life and I found this episode fantastic. It has taken a lot of effort in the form of therapy, medication, exercise, and journaling to get my symptoms under control.

    Being able to laugh about my illness was a huge step for me. I can now have a chuckle when I don’t feel like getting out of bed and say “That’s just my stupid depression talking”.

    Your episode was funny but not patronizing or insulting. People who suffer from this disorder shouldn’t feel any shame and I think you handled a delicate topic more gently than you realize. Thank you for this.

  6. Your comments at the start of the show about making fun of awful things were great and truthful. The world can be a senseless place where bad things happen to nice people. Humour helps us get through the awfulness by shrinking and stylising evil to something we can cope with. It wasn’t until my honey was killed in an accident involving a bus a few years back that I realised just how many frickin’ “Death by Bus” jokes and references are part of routine conversation. While I would probably not listen to a Caustic Soda special on bus crashes even now, I wouldn’t expect you not to make one. So many bus loads of orphans have gone over cliffs . . .

    Anyway, great show as always – I recommend Stephen Fry’s biographies or his documentary (which you can watch for free ), which well delineate the difference between normal sadness and depression.

    He commented recently that “It is unreasonable for me to be unhappy. I have had one of the luckiest careers of my generation. There is no one I have not met, nothing I have not done. I am overpraised and overpaid. I have no reason to be unsatisfied with my life and all it has given me, indeed most of the time I am happy – but there are times when I want to slash my throat,” .

  7. I’ve spent, probably – as between my doctor and myself we figured I went undiagnosed for at least a decade – the last 20 years battling severe depression; 12 of which were on high-dose SSRIs (you’ll note I haven’t shot up any schools).

    To say that it sucks would be an understatement.

    Constantly fighting apathy, self-hatred, constant tiredness, an inability to focus, crippling self-doubt and the occasional panic attack (etc) has, in some ways come to dominate my life, but, as my wife says, I still get up in the morning and I still do things, which has got to be better than lying in bed. In a way, it’s analogous to the point you made at the beginning of the show, you make fun of the shitty stuff, I keep moving – if we did neither then we may as well lay down and die.

    I am pretty sure some wise person somewhere … somewhen, stated something about how it’s not the winning or losing but how much fight you put up. ….

    Better expressed: always waving, never drowning …

    Good show, guys.


  8. I cannot begin to express how awesome your preface to this episode felt as I was listening. I’ve dealt with depression all of my adult life and I found this such a refreshing (ugh, hate that word, but…) twist on the subject. The tone of this episode was spot on – you rarely hear discussions on this subject that don’t sound like pathetic clinical discourses – this “don’t touch them or they’ll break” tip-toe dance. And that usual approach always feels condescending and stigmatizing to me.

    It felt good to hear a casual, humorous conversation about something that a lot of us just live with every day.

    Excellent, guys – big ups!

  9. Great show guys, altho’ I’m very disappointed to hear that Dr. Rob will not guest host an episode on ketamine. 😉 That would have been a good one.

    A couple of points of clarification: John, the young boy who goes the to hospital (the study by Rene Spitz mentioned by Dr. Rob), was not sick. He was admitted to the hospital childcare centre while his mother was admitted to hospital. Mom was not sick – she was pregnant. It was standard medical practice in those days to admit women for 2 weeks or more, even during a normal pregnancy, and have the children stay in the hospital-based orphanage (John had a healthy and normal father, but in those days it was not acceptable for the father to care for children – better have a strange woman at the hospital do it than have the father miss work to care for a child!). During John’s two weeks in the hospital childcare centre, he went from a normal, well adjusted 2 year old boy, to a depressed, withdrawn, anxious shell of himself. He stopped playing and interacting with others. He even stopped crying eventually, as he just gave up competing with all the full-time orphans who were skilled at getting the little attention they could get from the one caregiver who was responsible for many many high needs children. The whole progression was caught on video for the purpose of research. This led to a revolution in how woman and children were treated by the hospital, as John’s treatment led to permanent psychological damage – his brief stay in hospital had disturbed his forming of a healthy attachment to his mother. Technically, John was not depressed but was developing an attachment disorder, which can have some of the same symptoms of depression but is a much more serious and permanent condition. Spitz also studied institutionalized babies and found that even if they are given good food and shelter, they will fail to thrive and most will die if they do not have the attention of a primary caregiver (i.e. mother, father, grandparent, foster parent, nanny, etc.). This process, where babies fail to thrive in depraved living conditions, still occurs today in third rate orphanages around the world.

    There is a horrible video of these failure to thrive kids who lived permanently in the hospital:

    (If you ever have an episode on Attachment Disorder, please give me a call!! A great Caustic topic and I am a bit of an Attachment Disorder expert/nerd, if such a thing exists)

    RE: Marvin the paranoid android – he wasn’t just depressed because of his massive brain. He was given a failed prototype “Genuine People Personality” by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, a corporation that hide its terrible design flaws by making its products have surface design flaws. GPP was one of the many failed technologies produced by this corporation.

    1. Brilliant! If you ever run across a copy of Spitz’s original film, I’d love to see it. He actually received death-threats from psychoanalysts when he produced it. God forbid data should trump dogma!

        1. Good find! Wow, that’s *so* hard to watch. It must have been hard for Spitz to passively document that, but it was necessary to show the world this quiet emotional tragedy which then led to drastic changes in hospital practices.

  10. Thanks for the episode, this one hit close to home as I have had 2-3 episodes of depression. I would also like to comment that I tune into caustic soda because of the way that the topics are tackled and i understand that some people could be offended but the edgy topics and the dark humor is why i tune in. If we operate on the fear of offending people we will never have the opportunity to speak.

  11. Between Dr. Rob’s and Kevin’s efforts at 1:05:50, I was surprised that you guys didn’t hit on this alternate name for Marvin from Hitchhiker’s Guide: Marvin the Melancholic Mechanoid.

    Thanks Jon Paynter (two comments up) for remembering the bit about Sirius Cybernetics’ Genuine People Personalities. “Your plastic pal who’s fun to be wiiiith!”

    Great show as always, guys! And well handled considering that this is a topic with which most people have had *some* first-hand experience—either directly or through a close relation. The same can’t be said (thank the great old ones) for very many of your other episode topics.

  12. Oh, Dr Rob! He is my favourite fantasy man. His voice is hot! And now this great “one minute medical school”, man, I’m sold!
    Don’t worry, I’m not gonna stalk him, reality rarely meets up to fantasy. But I am gonna dream about him….

  13. Not a criticism, just an FYI:

    In Hungarian, “sz” is pronounced just like our standard “s” sound. So Szasz (is pronounced much like the word “sauce.” eg. the Hungarian word “huszár” has been adopted in English as “hussar” (the light cavalry soldier).

    In Hungarian, “zs” is pronounced like the “s” in “pleasure” or the “ge” in “beige.” So Victor Zsasz’s name (if he is Hungarian) would be pronounced like… hmm… how to spell this in English… Zhass, I guess. Think “Zsa Zsa Gabor.”

    According to wikipedia, “Charles Victor Szasz” was the birth name of the original DC comics hero named “The Question” but this was later anglicized to “Sage” – out of simplicity, I guess, because that’s now how it’s pronounced.

  14. I’ve been a depression sufferer for most of my life. My parents are clinically depressed people as well. I am on drugs to help me out; they do not STOP it from happening, but they help to keep it manageable so I do not stay in bed ALL the time.
    I am very aware that when I am depressed, I KNOW it is irrational, but I cannot stop it.
    A strange part of the depression is that, as I have aged, I have found that while I am deeply depressed, I seem to have a “Spock Brain” that is telling me that it’s just the depression, that it will get better, that life is not horrible enough to leave for good. Which is true, but the it’s a battle to have that going on at the same time as suffering from the depression. (No, I am not a multiple personality or schizophrenic, although it sometimes feels like it) It’s an odd coping mechanism, to be sure.
    Over these decades of dealing with my depression, I have found that sardonic gallows humor actually HELPS me cope. So while I can understand the person who wrote the letter at the top of the show, I have the opposite reaction: being sarcastic or funny about morbid things is helpful. I don’t think you are unsympathetic to people in topics because you make jokes about the situation; rather, I find that joking defuses the horror of our world. It, too, is an important coping mechanism that I find I need more than I need anything else. When I stop being able to joke about things, no matter how “inappropriate”, THAT is when I am almost to the bottom of the pit. So, THANK YOU. Even when depressed, you all make me laugh or smirk at SOMETHING. So I say, keep it up.
    Also, thanks for “the sadness toad and all of its fear tadpoles”…I am using that that phrase from now on!