The Many Unknowns about Depression

This article from The Guardian aims to answer the complicated question "what is depression?" in response to a commonly googled phenomenon. We recommend a read through this comprehensive article to learn from these interesting perspectives and in this post will share some points that stood out to us.

Many of us know that mental illness is complicated and impacted by countless factors. Mental illnesses present themselves differently in every person, and treatment options will affect two people differently as well. This article highlights the uncertainties that medical professionals have about depression, and shares some theories about why the illness exists. Despite having such a high prevalence, causes of depression are mostly guesswork at this point. Symptoms vary from individual to individual. Treatment options are often trial and error and it takes a great deal of time to develop a suitable and long-term treatment plan for each individual. 

The physical tolls on the body of people experiencing depression are mentioned. Heaviness, sluggishness and slowness are commonly mentioned by people experiencing symptoms. The colour black is referenced by many as a way to describe their feelings. Many physicians agree that individuals with depression often have a similar, distinct physical appearance - slumped posture, downward direction of the body and slow movements. Despite trying to determine specific and scientific criteria for diagnosing depression, it is often subjectively described by individuals experiencing it in the same way.

The article explores the possible evolutionary perspective of depression. The article suggests that because depression has no clear cure (like an infection), it might have roots in a healthy functioning mind that somehow becomes disrupted and becomes extreme. As with many of our current traits, it's possible depression has evolved because it is adaptive. 

This evolutionary perspective is also argued against because it is difficult to imagine how depression could be useful. Perhaps demonstrating signs of depression was a way gain support in social groups, to be taken care of, and build social structures that were necessary for survival. However, the article notes that those who don't develop depression are not at a disadvantage, which may squash the evolutionary theory behind depression.

This article highlights the many unknowns related to depression that still exist despite our advances in medicine and increased focus on mental illness. This may relate to the stigma that is associated with having depression stemming externally from others and internally from the person experiencing the illness. It is clear we have a lot to learn about depression but it is articles like this, which expose our lack of certainty about mental illness, that can be beneficial in helping society learn a bit more about what it might be like to experience an illness like depression. Consider these uncertainties when you learn about a friend, colleague or acquaintance experiencing depression.