If a depression begets depression, will the concept of mental illness be altered?

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4 Responses

  1. Arturo Baiocchi says:

    Good point–what happens to the category of depression once it becomes so ubiquitous, especially in a context where so many people are experiencing disruptions, unemployment and chronic economic stress.

    Moreover, Allan Horwitz in some of his books has addressed the issue of clinical depression with the same type of frame that you discussed above. Similar to what you describe, he argues that there’s an enduring confusion within the mental health industry about the distinction between normal and abnormal sadness. He points to how the DSM-III constructed the category of depression back in 1980 as the culprit for this confusion and consequential growth in the tide of depression rates. For Horwitz the DSM-III and its later edition excluded the consideration of context, but one wonders whether the current economic downturn will further exaggerate this confusion. On the other hand, if medication and therapy help people confront their struggles and perhaps assist them in moving on is this such a bad thing?

    • Great comment. Allan’s work was hugely influential in my thinking when I wrote this 😉

      I think larger questions about what is actually “disordered” and what “normal” or normal response to tough situations — normal sadness — are raised once we begin to consider how social phenomena affect our emotional state.

  2. Keri Iyall Smith says:

    Fascinating questions that you ask here, not only about mental and physical health of individuals, but also about the social context that we live in. Thanks for a great post.


  1. 16th September 2010

    […] 16, 2010 by Claude Fischer An August post on a sociology blog began, “For the last several decades, depression rates have been on the rise […]

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