Depression: Historical Perspective


An overview of the etiology of the condition of depression; cultural, social, physical, psychological and its current prevalence as defined as a disease in contemporary culture.

Audio: NPR: History of Treating Depression (2004) Depression first entered the diagnostic manual just over 50 years ago. Psychoanalysis was often the treatment then, yet many suffered in silence. Today, millions of Americans are treated, often with antidepressants. Join NPR’s Neal Conan and his guests to examine the medical and social evolution of treating depression.

Pre-20th Century Theories of Depression

“And yet in certain of these cases there is mere anger and grief and sad dejection of mind………those affected with melancholy are not every one of them affected according to one particular form but they are suspicious of poisoning or flee to the desert from misanthropy or turn superstitious or contract a hatred of life. Or if at any time a relaxation takes place, in most cases hilarity supervenes. The patients are dull or stern, dejected or unreasonably torpid……they also become peevish, dispirited and start up from a disturbed sleep.”

Arateus (AD 150)

History of Clinical Depression

Years ago, scientists did not really know where depression came from. The environment was always identified as the primary suspect as the cause of depression in general, but more recent studies show a strong evidence that clinical depression such as depressive disorder, manic depression and dysthymia is actually caused by chemical imbalances, the predisposition to which is inherited.

Culture and Depression

Science Daily reports that “”the onset of depression triggers a biological response that takes place within a specific social context, resulting in a cascade of somatic and psychological experiences that are interpreted through a particular cultural lens. Careful translation and adaptation of our assessment tools helped us clarify if different approaches lead to different symptom profiles and conclusions about patients.”

  • genetics
  • biochemistry
  • environmental model
  • role of neurotransmitters
  • initial treatments
  • pharmacological interventions
  • alternative treatments

Depression: Types, Degrees

Emergence of Bipolar and role of pharmaceutical companies to defining

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