Depression is viewed by psychologists as a mental disorder. There are many forms of depression including seasonal affective disorder, major depression, and minor depression. The criteria for diagnoses varies just as much as the various forms of depression itself. These include irritability and the feelings of sadness or emptiness. Weight loss, troubles sleeping, feelings of guilt and thoughts of death. Five “symptoms” must be present within the span of two weeks for a proper diagnoses to take place. Many people experience many of these symptoms throughout their lives, and psychologists and psychiatrists will use this criteria differently based on how they asses their patients.
But what if depression was just a natural response to the stress present in the fast pace life the western industrialized society lives in? What if the drugs being prescribed for depression are more damaging for people with depression than helpful? It is argued that depression is a socially constructed illness made up for the sole purpose of making a profit off from people’s emotional responses to the stress of every day life.
Dr. Gary Kohl says, “There is very little difference between sadness and depression.” The only difference is that there is a defined psychiatric one of depression that has various symptoms attached with a period of time as listed above. The testing or screening process for diagnoses is based on particularly criteria. For mental illnesses like depression, there is no objective test that indefinitely is able to pinpoint whether or not a person has depression. The diagnoses is purely subjective based on the evaluation of such subjective tests.
Though the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders takes into consideration the situation of a person passing away, it does not consider such matters as loss of job, cars breaking down, relationship break ups, etc. If a person has a bad day that evolves into a bad week or two, they could, by the psychiatric definition, be depressed and diagnosed. Not to mention social problems involving homophobia, sexism, racism, etc that can also lead people to have troubles with sadness and guilt. The resulting emotions, are natural and should be dealt with.
It is suggested that deficiencies in neurotransmitters cause some mental illnesses and that drugs can stabilize these deficiencies. However, neurotransmitters come from food. If using serotonin, which is often prescribed to manage depression, causes deficiencies to manage these feelings. This being likely more problematic than helpful, says Dr. Kohl. He also says that with good psychotherapy and nutrition, sadness can be managed.
What Dr. Kohl doesn’t take into consideration is the compartmentalization in regards to treating things such as sadness. Because psychological problems are now managed by psychotherapy, counseling, and expensive sessions with “qualified” professionals. People with economic disadvantages, which are a large cause for such ailments and stress associated with depression and what Dr. Kohl would call the natural human emotion of sadness, can’t afford such treatment. In terms of managing depression, it becomes difficult to heal when only professionals have the proper training to heal symptoms of stress.
No longer do people communicate with friends or family problems that cause grief. It is considered rude and frequently burdening to manage such things in terms of friendships and families. During off time between school if attending and work, people want to relax, not help people solve their “personal” problems. Even when these problems are legitimate and problematic in the persons life, they are often put to the side and told to seek counseling when counseling isn’t necessarily available.
Society’s approach to depression is off kilter. First, it classifies normal human feelings of sadness as an illness that can be treatable by dangerous drugs. Secondly, sadness and depression are seen as something that can’t be managed by peers or families and as something that needs to be treated by professionals that are frequently financially inaccessible. This results in people turning to other drugs to cope with their feelings of sadness. Without dramatic changes to the edifice in which “mental illnesses” are treated, illnesses such as depression and sadness will continue down a dangerous treatment trajectory that is bent on profiting off from natural human responses to stress in their environment.