Gary Greenberg’s Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History Behind a Modern Disease explains why we have plenty of reasons to question whether or not depression is actually a disease. Greenberg, a practicing psychotherapist who has experienced depression himself, uncovers how it came to be called a disease, as well as the events—including the pharmaceutical companies’ clever and deceitful advertising—leading up to the inflow of antidepressants. It’s a history of “accident and misunderstanding and overreaching, of unwarranted leaps of logic and wishful thinking and the misapplication of scientific rhetoric, of bad faith and greed.”
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This isn’t to say it’s wrong to take medication when you’re depressed. Antidepressants are effective some of the time for some people. But, as Greenberg notes, in trials for antidepressants, the placebo effect beats the actual drugs. “A total of seventy-four trials have been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for the twelve leading antidepressants. Of those trials, only thirty-eight showed an advantage of drug over placebo. That advantage, when it is there at all, is small.” Also, a look at other clinical trials shows "that 80 percent of the effect of the antidepressants is due to placebo effects."
Faith in medication may help temporarily, but it doesn’t do anything to enlighten us or fill the deepest caverns within us that demand meaning and completion. Furthermore, as Greenberg mentions, just because an antidepressant makes a person feel better doesn’t mean there was a chemical problem in the first place. It only explains how the drug influences the chemicals already there. For some people, it’s not important. For them, all that matters is to feel better as soon as possible. That’s okay, although I’ll be honest in saying I think it’d be much more worthwhile to get at the heart of things—to seek relief through honesty, by examining experiences and thought processes with a counselor or trusted friend—even if it hurts.
If you're ready for an intellectual challenge, I highly recommend this book (you can see more about it here). In my opinion, the most important point from it is that we mustn’t let the medical industry dictate to us we are merely dysfunctional blobs of matter that can be fixed by science. We are so much more than that. It's true that all of us are dysfunctional to some extent, but we’re also mysteriously and wonderfully human, and we each have a story to tell. Depression, although black and infernal at the time, ultimately serves to improve us, bringing us wisdom and greater freedom than we ever had before. This is what I’ve experienced because I was open and brutally honest in emails to a loving, trustworthy friend while I suffered.
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