Depression is Society Taking the Wrong Approach

Society has taken a wrong turn somewhere when people who are truly suffering with depression are pushed aside and lumped together with others who are “unhappy.” When this happens, people who need help the most end up lost in the system and never get the care and treatment that can help them recover and lead normal lives.

There’s a world of difference between clinical depression and unhappiness, but doctors today seem to think that depression and unhappiness are one and the same. They grab their prescription pad and with a stroke of the pen, you’re cured. No excuse me, your condition is being managed, thank you, next patient please. This cavalier attitude condemns people who really suffer from depression and who need more than a bottle of pills to a lifetime of drug dependency without a real cure.

The most commonly prescribed drugs in America today are antidepressants. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 118 million prescriptions for antidepressants were written in 2005 alone. That’s a telling statistic. Especially when you consider that the population of the U.S. is just over 300 million people. How could 118 million Americans possibly be depressed?

Doctor Ronald W. Dworkin, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute has written extensively on the subject, including an article published in 2001 titled “The Medicalization of Unhappiness,” and a new book titled “Artificial Unhappiness-The Dark Side of the New Happy Class.” Dr. Dworkin says that “Too many people take drugs when they really need to be making changes in their lives.”

Society has taken the wrong approach in several ways. The first by lumping clinical depression and unhappiness together, the second, by deciding that the solution is medication. Modern medicine delights in labeling conditions and treating them as diseases. Unhappiness certainly isn’t a disease.

The real issue, according to Dr. Dworkin, is that physicians are treating unhappiness as a biochemical problem. He goes on to say in an article published in the Philadelphia Inquirer in May of 2006 that “These drugs [antidepressants and psychotropics] are vital in the treatment of clinical depression, but in using them to treat everyday unhappiness, doctors are changing the psychological dynamic in millions of Americans. Instead of finding happiness through a better life, many people now handle the due stress of life with medication. To the extent that they do, they are simply following the doctors’ lead.”

Of course there may be a more sinister explanation for the explosion in the diagnosis of depression and the soaring sales of antidepressants. That might just be the pharmaceutical industry’s efficient marketing machine.

Society’s approach to depression leads to a disconnect between our daily lives and truly serious medical conditions. The quick fix that merely masks underlying symptoms is the order of the day. Whenever we are unhappy, there’s always a reason. The solution to unhappiness is to discover why we are unhappy and make adjustments to fix our problems, not drug ourselves into insensibility. The saddest thing of all is that people who need help the most, those who truly suffer from real depression are often left on the sidelines, never getting the help they deserve.