There are powerful economic, social, and political reasons to call depression a disease. not even counting the billions of dollars for the pharmaceutical industry. Actress Patty Duke wrote in her book, A Brilliant Madness,how "relieved" she was to find she had an "illness," how comforting to know that her depression and her behavior had not been "her fault." These are the first four words in her book, all in caps: A DISEASE? THANK GOD! There are insidious and seductive social forces urging us to accept this doctor-approved "relief" from thinking our behavior and our thinking is our responsibility.
The idea that depression and manic depression are physical illnesses has for years gone unchallenged in the mainstream medical and psychological community, except for a few stalwart souls such as psychiatrists Thomas S. Szasz and, to a lesser degree, retired Chief Psychiatrist of Johns Hopkins, Paul McHugh.
But the public is slowly waking up as medical journals and even the mainstream media is starting to question the value of anti-depressants. This is difficult for the mainstream magazines because a lot of their advertising dollar comes from the pharmaceuticals. A cover story in Newsweek magazine (January 29, 2010) heralded "the depressing news about anti-depressants." The article goes on to say that the latest research shows that anti-depressants are no more effective than placebos in the treatment of depression. The article says that "as more and more scientists who study depression and the drugs that treat it are concluding...antidepressants are basically expensive Tic Tacs."
Of course Newsweek is decades behind many alarmed whistle blowers in the psychiatric industry like Szasz and McHugh who have been warning us for years. In Szasz's many books, including The Myth of Mental Illness and Psychiatry: The Science of Lies and others, he debunks the whole idea that people can be mentally rather than physically ill, with mental symptoms in need of a doctor's treatment rather than physical symptoms.
Dr. Szasz, psychiatry's most dissident psychiatrist, was once dismissed from his university position for insisting that physicians were trained to treat bodily malfunctioning, not "economic, moral, racial, religious, or political 'ills'...That doctors were trained to treat bodily diseases, not envy and rage, fear and folly, poverty and stupidity, and all the other miseries that beset man."But now his controversial first book, the Myth of Mental Illness, published over forty years ago has been re-released this year in paperback.
Szasz claims that the concept of mental illness came about because it is "possible for a person to act and to appear as if he were sick without actually having a bodily disease." He believes that mental illness is not a useful concept, that it is scientifically worthless and socially harmful because mental illness is not so much a disease as it is a metaphor for something the person is trying to communicate.
"People have been convinced that "what are really matters of their individuality are, instead, medical problems," reiterates Chief Psychiatrist McHugh. "Restless, impatient people are convinced that they have attention-deficit disorder (ADD); anxious, vigilant people that they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder; stubborn, orderly, perfectionist people that they are afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder; shy, sensitive people that they manifest avoidant personality disorder, or social phobia."
And, insists McHugh, "wherever they look, such people find psychiatrists willing, even eager to accommodate them or, worse, leading the charge."McHugh at least is questioning much of the present-day diagnosis of social phobia and multiple personality disorders. Even manic depression, admits McHugh is a presumed disease. The presumption, he declares, "carries the implication that some as-yet-undemonstrated pathological mechanisms and etiological agencies will emerge to explain the stereotyped set of symptoms."To me this seems like pretty thin stuff to trust one's life to and yet this "disease theory" of bipolar disorder still persists as present-day medical orthodoxy.
It is a slow process for the whole medical industry to embrace the idea of exercise for depression or cognitive behavioral techniques such as brainswitching. They can't make any money if we learn how to get out of depression by ourselves.