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Depression - an Alternative Hypothesis

DEPRESSION is a major cause of suffering in the Western world. There are tens of millions of Americans depressed at the moment. Millions are affected to the extent that their everyday activities are impaired, some incapacitated. Over 200 million prescriptions are written yearly. The depression diagnosis is a list of symptoms. Many different causes can have the same symptom. It is the cause we should treat, not the symptom.

There is one disconnect, which would be obvious if the pharmaceutical companies were not so efficient in advertising to patients and doctors alike. The antidepressants do not work for the majority. If they really did cure, as the advertising claims, there would be very few people suffering from depression.

Another obvious fact that is ignored, is that, while the chemicals in the brain change quite soon after beginning antidepressant medication, it can take up to 6 weeks before the benefit is felt. If the chemicals are the cause, then the patients should feel better fairly quickly. Obviously, the subject is much more complex than the pharmaceutical companies’ simplistic reductionistic marketing messages.

That antidepressants do not cure the majority of users is now proved. There have been a number of scientific papers written, showing the lack of honesty in antidepressant studies. Results of pharmaceutical companies’ trials, positive to antidepressants are published, but those showing negative results are usually shelved. Doctors reading medical journals are then under the impression all the trials are positive.

Antidepressants do work in some cases, but not in the way the pharmaceutical industry tries to explain their hypothesis. In other cases the medication mask symptoms, giving the feeling that the depression has lifted. This alternative hypothesis explains why chronic depression is not cured by antidepressants, because anti depressants do not address the cause.

Depression has been around since the first humans. Assuming it is a natural condition which serves a purpose and not an illness, then alternative explanations are permissible. We need to ask under what conditions would the symptoms of depression be beneficial.

This hypothesis concerns the more usual depression, not the chronic severe type and Bipolar disorder.

This hypothesis gives a perspective which could be valid in a community with an extended family and a wide social network. It is based on two premises:

  1. In some Third World societies depression is considered the thinking condition. The person is given the chance to reflect without the Industrial World’s guilt for not being productive.
  2. Cognitive Therapy where the focus is on changing thought patterns and expectations is in most cases a more effective treatment for depression than medication.
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If depression is to the psyche what pain is to the body, then it is a warning sign. When we feel pain we stop doing the action, so preventing us from doing more damage to the injured part. The depression is a sign that our life generally, or in specific areas, is out of balance with our psyche. If the purpose with depression is to bring balance back in our lives, then the lack of energy is explained. It gets the person to stop and think, to reflect on one’s life. If the antidepressant enables us to continue as before, then it is like taking a strong pain killer like morphine to continue running with an injured leg.

The need to reassess one’s life, and the cause of this depression lies in a disconnect between how the sufferer perceives the world to be, and what the sufferer expects the world to be.

Some thoughts:

  • A reduced interest in normal activities gives the person an opportunity to think of other things. The depression brings to mind what are the important issues to reflect on.
  • Difficulty falling asleep is when there is a need to think. Insomnia because of anxiety is a different matter entirely.
  • Excessive sleep is the body’s sign that sleep and rest is needed.
  • The feeling of worthlessness and guilt might be a response in our society where our value is in our economic usefulness. Why is it negative to be a housewife and raise children? Why are so many children with Down’s syndrome aborted (93% in USA).
  • The ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions is reduced with depression, as one is not supposed to be thinking about everyday affairs. The extended family and friends are supposed to take care of those things.

The frequency of depression in the West today is then a response to an unnaturally stressful lifestyle. The degree of suffering is partly due to the social stress on us to perform, together with the breakdown of normal society. We are not designed to be nuclear families, or less. In most pre-industrialised societies there were extended families. With the support of extended families there was a safety net. There were communities where people could share views and support each other.

The places in Britain where the people are most happy or satisfied, are rural areas with a strong community bonding. Is that a coincidence?

The most common remedy in the West is medicine which masks the symptoms, and so gives the sufferer a sense of wellness. This does nothing for the actual cause. In most cases this may not be serious, but for the cases where there is a serious reason for the depression, this can be devastating for the person with a serious depression.

In this hypothesis BURNOUT, which is occurring more frequently these days in the West, can be seen as an extremely severe form of depression.

A form of treatment which matches this hypothesis, is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. In this therapy, the thoughts are treated. People with behaviors such a being the person who “gets things done” or has difficulty saying “no” at work, can easily become stressed. The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy meets these people where they are and and helps adjust the thoughts and attitudes, which are the fundamental cause of their depression in the first place.

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