Cognition & Reality

Friday, 27 August 2010

Medicalizing Sadness

From Wikipedia:

“Depression is associated with changes in substances in the brain (neurotransmitters) that help nerve cells communicate, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. The levels of these neurotransmitters can be influenced by genetics, hormonal changes, responses to medications, aging, brain injuries, seasonal/light cycle changes, and other medical conditions.”

From NIMH:

“Research indicates that depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain. Brain-imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have shown that the brains of people who have depression look different than those of people without depression. The parts of the brain responsible for regulating mood, thinking, sleep, appetite and behavior appear to function abnormally. In addition, important neurotransmitters–chemicals that brain cells use to communicate–appear to be out of balance. But these images do not reveal why the depression has occurred.”

Thus “depression” is a term for medical “condition,” and not what it really is, a human condition caused by events in life that leave most people sad: death, divorce, loss of income, lack of necessities, etc. Medical “treatment” for depression, it follows, must consist in pharmaceutical means of alleviating a “mood disorder.” In this way, it is possible for our society to pretend that many of its ills do not exist, and that ordinary reactions of dismay and despair are phantoms caused by chemical imbalances, rather than experiences frequently caused by social and economic imbalances.

Notice that depression is “associated” with changes in neurotransmitters. That solves the knotty problem of disentangling the relationship between supposed brain states, which can be seen only through a glass darkly, and emotional states that are all too obvious. “Environmental” events are admitted as a possible cause of depression, but it remains a ‘brain state.” The reason for this insistent claim is so complex as to have probably escaped those responsible for disseminating mainstream information on depression. Briefly, a “brain state” is an isolated entity susceptible to specific medical treatment. Potentially, it can be measured and controlled. Life, the real life of real individuals, conceived as such, escapes any form of definition, and cannot be the object of medical or any other “treatment.”



1 Comment »

  1. […] drtone @ 12:04 pm I’ve discussed my problems with the term “depression” in  a post from a couple of months ago. I’m returning to this topic because the term “depression” encapsulates so many […]

    Pingback by “Depression” Makes Me Sad « Cognition & Reality — Thursday, 21 October 2010 @ 12:05 pm | Reply

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