Not (just) tango therapy!
Get therapy from different sources. Tango can look like an addiction if a person is depressed and relies too much on dance to help his or her mood.
Can you spot the dysphoric tangueras at the milonga? It's not hard to assess the distant stares the sad faces. I do not mean picky tangueras, who want to dance only if it means the partner is musical and listening to her as well. Women have every right to be picky. I mean the rare (but nearly always present) tanguera who sits waiting for her one-tanda prince to come dance with her. The common depressed tanguera, in my experience, is admired by other women for her dancing, but has this burning need to show off the classes, the shoes and the $1000 volcada she purchased. The depressed dancer is often very picky about dancing and sullenly waits for only the best "ride." Please get some therapy, and not just tango therapy! It's not working! You are depressed! Clinically depressed.
For years I have been saying that tango is therapeutic in spite of the many who act as if it is an addictive drug. It is not a drug. Although tango has helped me and countless people to celebrate life and take on the world, tango possibly could cause even more problems for the vulnerable, depressed person. For a moment now, let's imagine together a woman struggling from depression: Her marriage and job have not been going well. Her teen daughter is adding to her stress and depression. The school suggests that the daughter needs therapy. So the woman takes her teen daughter to a psychiatrist. The doctor puts the teen in a study on depression among young females. Soon after, the daughter has a long-lasting intervention that keeps her out of depression. That "intervention" in a recent study was dance. (See this study in Psychiatric News.) Now imagine that the depressed mother decides that she will finally do something for her own depression and she starts dancing tango because of her daughter's good results.
There is a problem here! Tango and dance in a controlled setting can be excellent for many people. It is NOT a first-line therapy for depression in a non-controlled environment. The challenges a depressed person faces in tango include: Gender imbalances (too much sitting and wishing), time away from a husband who doesn't want to dance, less time with her children, lots of time and money to go from being a beginner to an experienced tanguera or to go off to festivals. As a result, tango may be a really terrible choice for her to overcome her depression. In this particular hypothetical example, the chances are high, according to the research, that the mother's depression also was a major cause for her teen's depression. Choosing one or more first-line therapies is very important for her relationship with daughter, her marriage and job. Tango is way down the list on appropriate therapies for clinical depression.
Tango by itself would be wonderful. But is it a place to start? There are so many great therapy possibilities for her: Her marriage is at a low and she's anorgasmic. Marriage therapy and a physical? Her work really is terrible and she hasn't the energy to think about other career options. Individual therapy! An antidepressant? Choose one that will help with the smoking habit and not hurt your sex life even more. How about yoga! Exercise! Fresh air! A marriage retreat! NOT tango, or at least not just tango. Isn't this clear? Please don't blame tango as an addiction if you refuse to get specific help. However, if you get help . . . wow! Watch how it changes your tango!
The article in Psychiatric News above was a Swedish study. The dance intervention was for 8 months, comparing another group of girls who did not go to the dance classes. The report says, "The dance group reported better health than the [non-dancing] control group did. A significant difference between the groups remained a year after the intervention had ended." Strangely enough the article's conclusion attributes the "significant difference" mostly to exercise. I know the great effects of exercise (from running around 14 marathons), but the "runner's high" can also be attained by the very slow movements of tai chi or a slow tango (even by oneself). It's as if the researchers just don't get it. But you do, right? Dance is therapeutic.
Hopefully tango is not the only pill in your medicine cabinet.
Photo credit: The photo is from the article cited above.
Blog idea: Thanks to my own personal triple-M psychiatrist, "Mi Milonguera Maria." She sent me the above article from Psychiatric News. Also, thanks Mikko (from Finland) for your challenges to my assertion that tango is therapeutic.