Admittedly, they have many similarities and tend to be comorbid.
Depression is a cognitive style caused by a pattern of frustration, as noted previously. It is the observation that one’s choices have consistently failed to achieve happiness for oneself. Despair is a perception of the future. It is an emotional response to the perception that tomorrow is not going to be better than today, and no one is coming to help, and particularly the perception that no one actually gives a shit about your problems except insofar as it makes them feel kinda bad (so please, stay out of sight, out of mind, thank you).
Because despair depends on future time orientation and pattern recognition, it is quicker to occur in far-sighted people with high nonverbal IQ. It is less likely to occur in people with high verbal IQ because this is dependent on a high average dopamine count over time, which is more likely to produce a default optimism about the future. Particularly, a top-heavy verbal:nonverbal IQ will produce a person whose default optimism is so robust as to produce persistent delusion in inappropriate situations. Put this person in the Gulag, and they may unduly exert themselves in physical labor in the mistaken belief that the guards will see what hardworking Communists they are and restore them to good standing within society.
However, a person with high visual:verbal might also despair when it’s inappropriate. This is called learned helplessness.
Learned helplessness is a behaviour in which an organism forced to endure aversive, painful or otherwise unpleasant stimuli, becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are escapable. Presumably, the organism has learned that it cannot control the situation and therefore does not take action to avoid the negative stimulus…
…For Group 3 dogs, the shock was apparently “inescapable.” Group 1 and Group 2 dogs quickly recovered from the experience, but Group 3 dogs learned to be helpless, and exhibited symptoms similar to chronic clinical depression.
In Part 2 of the Seligman and Maier experiment, these three groups of dogs were tested in a shuttle-box apparatus, in which the dogs could escape electric shocks by jumping over a low partition. For the most part, the Group 3 dogs, who had previously learned that nothing they did had any effect on the shocks, simply lay down passively and whined. Even though they could have easily escaped the shocks, the dogs didn’t try. Their lack of attempt was due to an effect called retardation of learning. Learning that response and shock are independent made it more difficult to learn that a response does produce relief by terminating shock. The emotional stress that the dogs experience when learning that the trauma is uncontrollable produced failure to escape.
Sometimes energy conservation is the right strategy, sometimes it isn’t. It all depends on whether the dog’s perception is correct about their ability to escape the shocks.
Illustrations of despair:
1. I have elsewhere described the Red Pill as the realization that “No one gives a shit except You.” Other people might as well be water running downhill for all the good they do or, at best, salmon swimming upstream to breed and then roll over dead. It’s not a precise description of reality, but it describes the emotional perception very well. From observation, I’d say creativity requires about three years of despair to start showing signs of life, and five years to approach maturity.
2. I can’t find this quote for the life of me, but one writer described the first punch he received from the police in Nazi Germany (I think?) as feeling like something broke inside him, forever. It was the realization that society wasn’t coming to his rescue- worse, society would have approved. He perceived that the torturer’s fists had the full censure of his nation behind them. He realized that the rest of his life was going to be fear, misery, humiliation, and public shame, and the best outcome he could hope for was a quick death.