One well-known animal model of depression, developed by Martin Seligman, is learned helplessness. In this model, rats in cages are given electrical shocks at random until, presumably realizing that there is nothing they can do to prevent these shocks, they simply give up and lie down, resigned or, perhaps, depressed. Life may feel like that to some people. At work, you may be faced with one difficult situation after another. Your boss may be constantly disgruntled or repeatedly abusive. Similarly in marriage or a relationship it sometimes feels as though you just can’t win. No matter what you do or say you land up in trouble with your partner. These are topics of satire, but in reality are not very funny. For example, in the highly successful comedy series Fawlty Towers, the unfortunate innkeeper, Basil Fawlty, is always falling foul of his wife Sybil. On one occasion Sybil harangues him about his gambling. When, later in the episode, she checks on whether he has been betting on the horses again (which he has) he responds, ‘No dear, that avenue of pleasure has been closed off to me.’ In depression, where avenues of pleasure are already closed off to the depressed person, it is particularly important that extra sources of unhappiness be tackled or avoided.


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