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Are anarchists more likely to be depressed?

+6 votes
As anarchists and revolutionaries, we are far from content with the status quo and the current state of affairs around us in this world. Does this leave us more prone to depression, or maybe depression brought out by a certain factor(s)? I have many an @ friend who feels hopeless/depressed much of the time, overwhelmed by the vastness of the "System" and the humongous shadow it can cast on an individual who has taken a stance of opposition to it. Is this a common feeling, and how do @s deal with it?
asked Feb 23, 2013 by anonymous

4 Answers

+1 vote
I'm no expert, but I'm not sure if anarchists/revolutionaries are necessarily more susceptible to depression than anyone else. Though we may be more aware of how expansively we get fucked over(?), almost everyone else gets fucked too, and are aware of it on at least one level in most cases.

With that said, I think you're on target that anarchists may be depressed for same or similar reasons relative to our semi-shared political stance; we don't like not having control over our own lives; sick of harassment by the state via the pigs, IRS, etc.; sick of harassment by capitalists via constant advertising, privatizing, etc.; sick of harassment by society via bigotry and ignorance, oppressive and alienating social constructs and standards, constantly being told to get a job by citizens and having to punch them in their throats and worry about consequences later, etc.

Everyone deals with their depression in different ways. Many find happiness reintegrating themselves with the natural world and/or finding a fun hobby. Maybe a more explicitly anarchist way to deal is to take potshots at the various institutions that make you feel depressed/oppressed/alienated/dominated and expose how fragile many of them really are. Hate that make-up ad that makes you feel ugly? Some added paint in the form of vandalism could brighten your day! Tired of recruiters frequenting your school? Burn down the local recruiting office! Environmental devastation in and around your city causing you distress? Sabotage construction and development equipment! Simply tackling the system that depresses you in small, easy-to-chew bites, day by day can replace that feeling of hopelessness with that of self-empowerment and determination. Remember you are never alone in any struggle, I hope this helps you
answered Feb 23, 2013 by Vindico Vaco (1,240 points)
+3 votes
I'm not sure if anarchists are more prone to depression or not, I don't have the statistics nor an equal enough perspective to compare the depression in anarchist and non anarchist circles.
However, many anarchists do view the world in a way that I think can lead to burn out, depression, and hopelessness. Anarchists have a discontent with the world, and feel that our understanding of the world clearly answers, or at least addresses, all the world's problems, and as such we ought to do something about all of these things. This can be an amazing struggle that empowers one to lead a life of conflict that works toward improving their life and maybe those around them or it can be a huge burden that looks like defeat every step of the way.

Its important to address what we, as individuals, want out of the world, not just what we want to change about it, and do it. If you want your ideas to be heard, write a zine, make propaganda, do banner drops, organize a bookfair (conversely, if you feel getting ideas out there is more effort than reward, don't); if getting out anger feels good, go break something or yell at a cop (conversely if it causes stress and anxiety or feels useless, don't feel obligated to be a smashy-smashy anarchist); if gardening and seed saving are important ways of reconnected and saying 'fuck you' to Monsanto, start a guerilla gardening project or something, etc etc etc etc etc. Find what makes you feel good about conflict and don't worry about winning, search for value in what you get out of it. And remember that it is not anyone's job to save the world, or even to 'save' anyone but themselves. I think there needs to be a little more self care on an individual level in this scene. Maybe I sound like a 'lifestylist', but what good is a analysis of the problems we face, if we aren't using it to find happiness and fulfilment in our own life.
answered Feb 24, 2013 by Katherine diFiore (5,490 points)
+3 votes
I'm inclined to flip the question: maybe anarchists are less likely to become (or perhaps more accurately, be diagnosed as) depressed. When i first got the diagnosis of depression, i tended to blame myself and feel that most efforts were pointless. The pharmaceutical-psychiatric industry profits by citing the causes of depression to be "faulty wiring" or other purely individual sources. Even before i was exposed to many critiques of society, i was surprised by this myopic focus on biology and almost total disregard of the social context. Now that i am thoroughly familiar with anarchist critiques of society and authority, my responses characterized as depression seem like a normal reaction. Now when my emotions go to those dark places i tend not to get stuck there. Not just because i've developed the conscientious mental tools, but because i know that it's not my fault. It's healthy to have a bleak response to a bleak reality. I'm a pretty pessimistic person, so i still don't really have hope that things will ever "get better" in any significant sense, but now i can make enough sense of the world to make efforts. I don't expect to "make a difference" but i do have the satisfaction of feeling that my activity is worthwhile (to me, if no one else).

There have been calls by anarchists and other radicals to "give up hope." I find this perspective to be pretty liberating. To see the whole of the world as my personal burden (and i know activists often take this perspective) now seems at once narcissistic and masochistic.
answered Apr 2, 2013 by enkidu (6,690 points)
yes. *especially* the last paragraph.
0 votes
I haven't read up as much as I feel I should have on @ critiques of mental illness and psychiatry, so I'm hesitant to generalize, and to use the terms that I do, but I think there may be an argument to be made that some people are drawn to anarchism because of their experience with mental illnesses like depression.  For me personally this is certainly the case - I was diagnosed with Bipolar type II and ADHD around two years ago, a few months after I'd abandoned @ism for democratic socialism, and it was partly because of what I've experienced through living with that diagnosis that pushed me forward again into @ism.  I don't want to get too much into it because this isn't a 'share your story' page, so here's the crux:

Being told you have a mental illness, and then having your understanding of that mental illness shaped by a psychiatric professional can be profoundly disempowering, and to a degree dehumanizing - 'you are x, x makes you do y, the only way you can avoid doing y is by taking this medication'.  So besides the authoritarianism embedded in mental healthcare power relations, you can be made to feel like a slave to your own malfunctioning brain.

Anarchism, in its rejection of hierarchy, coercion, an essential human nature and authoritarianism in general, and its affirmation of individual responsibility, self-ownership of your own body and self-definition can be remarkably empowering and re-humanizing; even with all the marginalization that self-identifying as an @ist can entail.  Are anarchists more likely to be depressed? quite possibly.  Are those who suffer depression, and experience the psychiatric establishment's offerings more likely to find anarchism appealing? again, quite possibly.


Also, +1 re:
There have been calls by anarchists and other radicals to "give up hope." I find this perspective to be pretty liberating. To see the whole of the world as my personal burden (and i know activists often take this perspective) now seems at once narcissistic and masochistic.

I came to a similar position after a superficial interface with Camus' ideas about 'the absurd', and that's when everything 'clicked' in terms reconciling the principles I held as an @ist and how I felt about the world/the future (before I felt a bit phoney self-IDing as an @ist).  It's reassuring to know that people who know what they're talking about far more than I do are advocating similar things.
answered Apr 3, 2013 by Yosemite (5,770 points)
I can't get out of depression anymore..I just have to live with it now but so far haven't got close to suicidal thoughts but you never know.

It's hard living in a world you hate everyday.

Maybe this will help:
http://nihilo0.blogspot.com/2012/12/depression-and-suicide-amongst-radicals.html
Good luck to all comrades still fighting everyday but unfortunately some of us can't do it any more.. Sisyphus rock
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