Depression. It’s that disorder that has become seemingly fashionable amongst celebrities, up there with ‘exhaustion.’ Because to put the label of ‘depressed’ on oneself is to excuse not wanting to get out of bed in the morning as something chemically based and therefore unavoidable. At the slightest hint of a struggle in life, “I’m depressed” is a license to reach for the Prozac and all is rosy once again.
But the haphazard way in which many practitioners are all too quick to write someone off as ‘depressed’ has left the disorder, which in its pure clinical sense is debilitating and soul-destroying, somewhat ridiculed such that “I’m depressed” will be received by most with “Yeah, yeah; go take your happy pills then.”
But one might ask, are the 14.8 million American adults diagnosed as depressed all genuine cases? Is it possible that such a colossal number of people can be feeling so hopeless?
With ever rising figures on the number of people diagnosed with depression each year, it seems that perhaps events in the world itself are having an effect on our biology. Cognitive behavioural therapy used to be heralded as an effective form of treatment for depression; changing the way somebody thought about themselves and their life could give them a new, brighter persepctive that motivated them to get their life back on track. But today, against a backdrop of war, terrorism, stabbings, gun crimes, poverty and disease, is it really possible for a counsellor to convince someone that there is a bright side? Depressing isn’t it?
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It’s now well established that external events can alter the chemical activity of a person’s biology. So is it that the only way forward is to prescribe the drugs to change the biology that is being permeated by the doom and gloom of the news today? Or in a more humanistic approach, should we all live in a bubble, oblivious to the world around, and make the most of what we have inside our own little microcosms?
What is clear is that the ‘depression’ of past versions of the DSM are entirely different forms of what manifests as the cause and consequences of depression today.