Friday, August 05, 2005

The Misunderstanding of Depression

I sent the following to CSM's editors regarding Patrick Chisholm's editorial "The Bright Side of the Blues" (8/5):

I must admit I was shocked to read Patrick Chisholm's editorial "The Bright Side of the Blues" (8/5). In a publication as reputable as CSM, it is unusual to find such misinformation and misrepresentation.

Let's begin with the concept of depression. In psychiatry, depression by its very definition is maladaptive and prevents the afflicted person from thinking about anything else other than how terrible their life is. It is not the sadness that you or I feel as a natural response to life events. Our sadness is adaptive indeed and allows us to alter our behavior and think about life, but it is not the depression that psychiatrists talk about.

Now to antidepressants. A good psychiatrist does not indiscriminately treat every depressed patient with a pill and send them on their way. Evey patient is different - some benefit with just behavioral therapy and an antidepressant may be added if therapy alone does not work. Multiple studies have now shown that a combination of therapy and antidepressant treatment is superior to either therapy alone in treating this terrible disease. There is also no proof that antidepressants "result in suicide". If you read the studies carefully, antidepressants may increase reporting of suicidal thoughts, but were not associated with increased suicides in teens. Far from "handicapping the client's ability to navigate and control their social environment", antidepressants may actually enable a person to start working through their negative thoughts in a more constructive way, thus ending their depression. Chisholm also quotes that "the fact that we can feel depressed in the first place means depression must have a purpose". Does this also mean that cancer has a purpose because we can all get cancer? My hunch is that most people would disagree.

It is obvious to me that Chisholm has not suffered from depression, and I wonder whether he has even known someone with clinical depression. If he has, then perhaps he would understand just how debilitating this disease is. This kind of misinformation and faulty thinking is a disservice to the American public and certainly to all of those suffering from depression. I might expect this from Tom Cruz, but certainly not from the Monitor.

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