It occurs to me that my previous post could give the impression that I think of depression as something that can be effectively handled by a little think-fu.
I don’t. Depression is vicious, bad stuff. If you or someone you care about has depression, grab yourself a copy of _Against Depression_ by Peter Kramer. It’s a discussion of how depression is understood in our culture and includes a roundup of current research on depression — and apparently more has been learned about it in the last 10 years than in the previous 50.
That stuff about “serotonin makes you happy, depressives have low serotonin, so if you take SSRIs it will make you happy”? It’s nowhere near that simplistic, and nowhere near that benign. We are far from fully understanding depression but from what we do understand about it, it is way more complex than that, and more importantly, it is progressively degenerative. The more you have it the more you are prone to have it. Mild episodes tend to lead to severe episodes. It involves a “stuck switch” which keeps the brain from turning off the stress hormones that come out during fear situations, and the stress hormones themselves damage mechanisms which are involved in shutting themselves off so it’s a vicious cycle. And the damage done is permanent. It’s as if there’s a path towards severe depression and with each day of depression you take a step down it, and when you manage to get out of depression then you can stop walking down the path, but when another episode hits you start off as far down the path as you walked the last time.
So grab yourself a copy of _Against Depression,_ and read it, if it’s a topic that matters to you. The important new research hasn’t really begun to filter into discussions of depression out in the mainstream of American discourse, so unless you’re a researcher or very well informed doctor you’re not going to hit this information without going looking for it.