Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Still defining depression.

There's an article over at The Atlantic today entitled Why Depression Needs A New Definition. The article peruses past and present namings of depression and their etymology.
In 1969, the American existential psychologist Rollo May wrote in his book Love and Will that “depression is the inability to construct a future,” while the cognitive psychologist Albert Ellis argued in 1987 that depression, unlike “appropriate sadness,” stemmed from “irrational beliefs”—“absolutistic, dogmatic shoulds, oughts, and musts,” he wrote—that left sufferers ill-equipped to deal with even mild setbacks.
I always find this interesting, because I'm driven to find language that aids the representation of suffering from depression. Context, and whom is defining depression (or any mental illness) is so important, and credibility (in my eyes) isn't necessarily based on a medical degree here. But, what is used by the medical community affects the legitimacy of my condition as well as the way I'm treated by the medical establishment.

The worry is that the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is still vague when it comes to depression. There still seems to be a lot missing, and varying degrees of depression and a cacophony of symptoms are all given the same weight. As Tom Insel from The National Institute for Mental Health is quoted as saying in the article:
Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure.
Bruce Cuthburt (also from NIMH) adds:
Our current concept of depression is left over from times when we didn’t really understand it very much. We know so much more about it now—physically, genetically, neurochemically—and we should be using that.
It just seems like so much about mental illness is unknown. There is still so little fact regarding something I'm living with. I'm on meds - I'm on increasingly more meds. Will my generation be that who lived and died by depression the way people died flu's we now don't even think about? How much of what is being talked about as science and medicine is actually just the result of guess-work and lobbying?

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