Escalante uses recent research on depression to argue that it is a physiological response to danger rather than a psychological state. She states that it is a way for the body to adapt to situations it evaluates as highly dangerous but inescapable via the normal mechanisms of flight or fight.
Escalante is trying to reframe depression. Rather than seeing it as a failure to cope with difficult situations, a sign of deviance, or a symptom of "distorted thinking," Escalante asserts that depression is an immobilization response that is positive and often lifesaving. She uses the example of a girl named Laura whose depression or immobilization saved her from life-threatening abuse from her father.
After her introduction, Escalante divides her article into the three sections: "Depression starts with Immobilization," "Does Depression have Value?," and "Shifting out of Immobilization."
"Depression starts with Immobilization" is an examination of the idea that depression begins as an involuntary response of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Escalante cites Stephen Porges, a neuroscientist who argues that immobilization, the first stage of depression, is a biological response to unavoidable danger. It is what we see when a rabbit goes limp in the mouth of a fox. This response slows down the metabolism and shuts down pain centers so that the animal can cope with what is going on. In humans, it is a way of protecting ourselves against trauma or harsh emotional shocks.
"Does Depression have Value?" argues that reframing depression as immobilization shifts the symptoms of depression from manifestations of weakness to the preconscious but healthy biological response of the body to danger. This reframing allows people to feel more positive about depression. Depression is not a sign of helplessness but the active response of a robust biological system.
"Shifting out of Immobilization" explains that leaving a state of depression means the body must have multiple cues that it is now in a safe environment. Social connection is the best way to provide those cues. Showing depressed people that they have no reason to feel shame about their state helps them feel better about meeting people and aids with the process of social reintegration.