How people with depression respond to unexpected, big, good news

I’ve never had depression and hopefully never will. It must be a terrible struggle.
My question is, is it possible for a huge,unexpected good surprise to jolt someone out of clinical depression? Let’s say someone with severe depression found out that he just won a $200 million lottery jackpot. Would that be such a radical, good, development in life that his depression might be left by the wayside? Or would he still not be cheered up by even such a huge piece of good news?

Yes - they would be cheered up - just like anyone else, but eventually they would return to their same state. Some people might snap out. I believe most of the time people have temporary depression. I have a mixture of chromic depression (dysthymia) along with other stuff.

I’ve had some very good stuff happen to me. Including some pretty good financial successes. It almost always makes me feel temporarily better, but you get accustomed to your new standard of living.

Twixt optimist and pessimist
The difference is droll;
The optimist sees the donut
The pessimist sees the hole.

Good news can both be encouraging and a reminder how sucky things are otherwise. I’ve reacted both ways. I try to let good news make the next day better, no matter how I react initially.

Short answer - it depends.

Longer answer - I can’t directly speak to something like a multi million dollar windfall, but pre-medication it didn’t matter if good things happened to me. I had a great job, fantastic long term relationship and many of the trappings of a good life. None of that mattered to my depression, I still regularly had days that even getting out of bed seemed like more effort than it was worth. External stimuli had little to no effect on my mood because there was and is something fundamentally wrong in the way my brain processes emotions and such. I count myself very lucky that I found a medication and therapy that helps.

“Damn, good news like these and I’m too depressed to enjoy them”

It depends. There seems to be a lot of variability in how people experience depression, so it might work for some people. I don’t think it could snap most people out of it, and it definitely wouldn’t have worked for me.

At best, when I was less depressed it would temporarily cheer me up, but I would return pretty quickly to being depressed. If I was more severely depressed I would have absolutely no reaction to it at all. Like Antinor01 said, during more severe depression external stimuli would have no effect on my emotions or moods. My expression would probably not change if I was fired or if I won the lottery. It’s actually somewhat weird, coming out of it, to realize that for most people emotions are not a thing that just kind of happens for no discernible reason.

I’m depressed. If I got a check in the mail for $200, not much reaction. $200 million I would be estatic.

I know it’s hard for a person who doesn’t have depression to understand.

Allie Brosh the writer of hyperbole and a half did a great piece on depression.

Here is part one. part 2

She was very successful and then had to take a break, just when things were going well, due to her depression.
I would probably feel like I didn’t’ deserve the lottery winnings and would stay depressed.

depression doesn’t imply a continual state of sadness.

You never get good news when you’re depressed.


Ok, tell me if this counts. In 1995, I had been severely depressed most of the last 15 years due to my problems attracting the opposite sex. Somebody fell for me out of the blue. I haven’t had problems with depression since, because we were married less than a year later.

But you had a reason to be sad, and when that reason went away, so did the sadness. Depressed people are sad for no external reason. It is internally generated.

I wasn’t severely depressed when I was depressed, but I still remember feeling easily overwhelmed by minor decision-making when I was in the midst of it. I didn’t have panic attacks or suffer from worry wart syndrome or anything like that. But my nerves were so sensitive that I couldn’t handle change. It’s kind of like how when you’re sick, you don’t have an appetite for spicy, flavorful foods. When I was depressed, I could only tolerate simple, bland, value-neutral stimuli. Anything else (like being around smiling, happy family) made me feel overwhelmed.

If I had won the lottery back then, I would have felt happy. But I know that overwhelmed feeling would have quickly followed because of the stress of having to deal with all the publicity, familial expectations, and important financial decisions. The sense of dread would have been a constant companion.

To be fair, there can be periods of depression an otherwise normal person experiences after a particularly bad event - losing a loved one, being laid off, etc. In these cases, random good luck could probably be helpful, as the sadness isn’t as internal.

Depression isn’t just “being sad”. It’s basically a feeling of hopelessness and apathy. It prevents you from feeling anything normal, really. Like, “why bother?”

So while it might cheer you up for a bit, it wouldn’t necessarily make you feel happy.

If you had a broken leg, and suddenly got $200 million dollars, would your leg still be broken?

There are many real life examples of what you are asking. Robin Williams got lots of money, fame, luxury, and awards. None of it “fixed” his depression.

As others are saying, depression is complex. So there probably are people who’s depression would improve if they were suddenly rich. I suspect most would not be helped, unfortunately.

I swam with dolphins and didn’t smile.

I assume it would depend on whether it’s situational depression or chronic depression. Situational depression (which many or most people experience at some point in their lives) is caused by outside factors, so it would make sense that outside factors would affect it - if you’re depressed because you’re broke and on the verge of losing your house, then yeah, a lottery win would probably fix your depression instantly. Chronic depression is caused by internal factors, so it’s hard to imagine external changes would make that much of a difference.

Most people who won $10 million would change their life dramatically. Some chronically depressed people would go on living the way they always did, figuring “nothing will change things.” They might quit their jobs or buy a house, but their day to day life would be what it always has been.

Existential depression is what I would call mine now. [When I was in my 20’s.]

Then this happened, and it completely turned my life around. I don’t know what to say to people who aren’t moved by swimming with some dolphins…can’t grasp the other kind, where nothing apparently in your life is to blame, at all, and thus no external event can avail you in the slightest. All I know is that it exists-the cause and effect there is apparently rather tricky to tease out in many cases. [I guess I want to feel like you are capable of fully owning-in terms of responsibility-your own mental states.]

Current Dope column, BTW, is on whether smart people are more depressed…