When I first agreed to be a blogger for PsychCentral, it was an agreement to experiment with the blogging process. Now that I’ve blogged regularly for the three month trial period I’d committed to, I’ve discovered that blogging isn’t for me. I can offer the reasons, but the bottom line is that the relationship between blogger and reader is too distant to satisfy me.
I have not gotten very much in the way of feedback from readers. What feedback I have gotten has mostly been globally supportive (“nice piece”). A few replies were critical when someone disagreed with me. The most feedback I received was when I suggested that evidence from a variety of fields (epidemiology, neuroscience, genetics, epigenetics) all pointed to depression being far more a social problem than a medical one.
I have suggested that there can’t be a singular medical solution to what is largely (though not entirely) a social phenomenon.
When I wrote about the misinformation disseminated from the drug companies and their unconscionable overselling of antidepressants, some people got their dander up. They were adamant in their beliefs that “depression is a disease caused by a biochemical imbalance in the brain, the drugs are great, and any expert should already know that.”
The fact that the “shortage of serotonin hypothesis” has been all but disproven and that the drugs have been shown to be little more effective than placebos challenges peoples’ cherished beliefs, so I understand the negative reactions. But it points to a larger problem: Some people would apparently prefer to think of themselves as diseased rather than temporarily disempowered, lacking some key skills or perspectives that would help them improve.
In my blogs, I offered perspectives and things to do that have been shown to not only help people get better, but stay better. The evidence is clear that people in good relationships do better than those that are socially isolated. It takes a variety of skills to build such relationships, and these are not easily acquired in today’s increasingly impersonal world. Drugs alone can’t teach them. I’ve also talked about opportunities for prevention, something else you can’t do with drugs.
The rate of depression is rising in all age groups. Kids are the fastest growing group of depression sufferers. As we watch depression striking at younger and younger ages, all but assuring more lifelong struggles for more people, blaming genes or biochemistry isn’t going to solve the problem.
Unless we look at the human costs of the way we manage ourselves, the overemphasis on form over substance, the bullying of each other whether at school as kids or on the job as adults, the use of technology over face to face communication, and the many other things I’ve discussed in my posts, it is a sad prediction that the rates of depression will continue to rise. The World Health Organization has already predicted that to be the case, and despite my efforts to help stem the rising tide with information and perspective, the tide still rises.
Ultimately, it is about individual choices. Will the people who most need help be smart enough to ask for it? Will people take the good information available with just a few mouse clicks go the next step and put that information to good use? Will people stop listening to the commercials and the media loud-mouths and start to think for themselves?
Will people stop buying into the “I’m a victim” mindset and take charge of their lives?
I hope so. No one, but no one, recovers from depression by declaring themselves a victim or giving up the capacity to think critically. My work has been about helping people think, behave and live in more skillful and personally empowered ways.
I have devoted my professional life to helping develop better treatments for depression. My books Breaking the Patterns of Depression and Depression is Contagious continue to be popular self-help tools. So do my CD programs Focusing on Feeling Good and Calm Down! I hope you’ll learn more about these materials by visiting my website, www.yapko.com.
As the New Year begins, I hope this will be the year where things take a turn for the better for all of us, but especially for you. May your New Year be a satisfying one. Thanks for reading my blogs.
Photo by “lowjumpingfrog,” available under a Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial license.
Last reviewed: 30 Dec 2010