The Myth of Depression
Does depression actually exist or is it the label we collectively give to certain behaviours, reported feelings and beliefs? That might seem obvious; how else can we define something so it is recognisable and subject to scrutiny and investigation? It’s the same with all labels. However, there is something more powerful when we label mental health conditions. Labels hold a lot of power in terms of how people react to them whether as sufferer, professional or anyone coming into contact with them. Mental health labels are politically loaded; a medical, pharmaceutical, psychological and ideological machinery exists within which causes and solutions are dictated.
The problem with labelling is that little attempt is made to see the problem in any other way than within the framework of ‘depression’ with all its associations. So instead of assuming normed behaviours and experiences of depression, let’s look more closely at what depression might really be communicating. The word ‘de-pressed’ means to ‘hold down’. If asked, many depressed people say they feel as if a cloud is over them, they have little energy to do anything and, depending on the severity of their experience, they report very little interest in anything. This of course spirals as the person lives within their world of depression – in effect, they become what they think about.
If we take away the labels and examine the experience as we would any other, another picture emerges. When a client tells me they are depressed, I ask ‘What is your depression about?’ Through removing the label and examining the experience without judgement, assumptions or direction, the answers are as unique as the person. In encouraging a client to reveal the nature of ‘their’ depression, they are often surprised at what it reveals about themselves. Often depression is an indicator of a person not following their own wishes or dreams; ones which they might have squashed, ignored or too fearful to examine. Contrary to having no interest in life, the depressed person has denied or is unable to access those interests, those bigger dreams and the anxiety associated with living them.