The question began with a dinner for eleven women. One was struggling with a difficult personal loss, and it was suggested she try an antidepressant. Over the evening’s conversation it was discovered that nine of the eleven had been on antidepressants. This realization continues to nag years later.
Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people ages 15 to 44. Depression affects approximately 17.1 million American adults, or 8 percent of the population. Adults from households with an income of less than $20,000 experienced the highest rate, and no surprise, adults with a household income of $50,000 or more had the lowest rate. The ultra-successful were not included in the studies.
Since the third version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association was published in 1980 psychiatry relied primarily on a list of symptoms for its definition of depressive disorder. A person with five symptoms out of a list that includes depressed mood, loss of interest in usual activities, insomnia, fatigue, lessened appetite, an inability to concentrate, etc. for a period of two weeks is considered to have a depressive disorder. In reality most people will endure a betrayal, lose a job, be passed over for promotion, financial set-backs, or a serious illness. All of these events can cause symptoms that will endure for longer than two-weeks. Is it depression? Does it require medical treatment? The genuine depressive disorder seems diluted by life’s challenges.
Medical treatment is frequently antidepressant drugs. They come with their own list of complications and side-affects that should cause us to stop and ponder. There is an epidemic, but is it really depression or our need to simplify all problems with a pill? The majority of the studies are presented by drug companies and don’t supply any unbiased information. In one non-drug company report it stated B vitamins have been as successful as Valium and presents no side effects.
What in our societies has caused such an extraordinary development? The most obvious I, an untrained know it all, can see is diet and the search and a clamoring for immediacy. The baby boomers are the first generation raised on processed food, which also changes rules. Our modern society is constantly marketed quick fixes and short cuts. Even exercise has been packaged and sold to us as clubs and machines.
In an attempt to be healthier, buying a “fresh” apple is tricky. It may have been picked in Chile 2 weeks ago, gassed, shipped and ripened a container. Most grocery stores are now national chains with few if any local produce sections. Is Organic better? We don’t know all of the loop holes and processing, let alone the date it left the field.
Then we have “Big Pharma” another bad wolf. With massive profits of building long time customers being trumped by cures. They add to the complexity.
Fact, all disease is caused by some malfunction or toxicity of the body. Fact, depression has been a valid mental condition for centuries. Why has it become an epidemic? Do we fear the emotional costs of life? Have we lost all control of our food? There is something missing, and another band-aide won’t fix anything. I apologize for no answers, but it is all too complex for an under educated amateur addicted to the news.