Psychology

Depression is Society Taking the Wrong Approach



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I have suffered from the most severe form of "depression," and I'm sure you know what this means. I oftentimes put "depression" in quotes to emphasize that its symptoms vary widely from person to person. I believe that we need to exploit modern technology to enable people with similar symptoms of "depression," or who simply face similar problems in life, to communicate with each other around the world. In what follows, I use the word, "shrink," not as a disparaging term, but as a term of affection.

Although most people seem unaware of this, "depression" has many definitions, and this fact makes communication about depression very difficult. I go in to see a shrink. I say, "I feel so sad and hopeless." The shrink talks to me in his or her office for half an hour. Then the shrink says, "You're depressed." About all I can say is, "Duh, tell me something I didn't know." Then he or she prescribes me some medicine that never works.

One of the main problems in dealing with depression is that "depression" has many definitions. A mental health professional might ask me whether I feel depressed, and I might respond, "Yes." What I mean in this case is that I feel sad. The psychiatrist looks for any combination of a certain set of symptoms. When a combination of such symptoms is present, the doctor decides that the patient suffers from "depression." This is another definition of "depression." When a psychiatrist prescribes medicine for me, he or she is assuming, or at least hoping, that the cause of my symptoms is my screwed up brain chemistry. This is why he or she prescribes medicine for me. So, here, the definition of depression, as used by the psychiatrist is simply "has screwed up brain chemistry that causes the symptoms that define depression."

Patients with "depression" differ widely in their symptoms. At one hospital in Virginia, I saw patients who had attempted suicide, one patient who would, for no reason, ball her eyes out, several patients who repeatedly cut or burned themselves, some patients who seemed normal, and one patient who just sat with a stone cold, expressionless face. What we need is for patients around the world with similar symptoms to take advantage of modern technology to "get together." `

Consider the following example of shrinks' typical pseudo-reasoning. An experiment with drug X is performed on 100 subjects whom shrinks have labeled as "depressed." This label means that each person could have any combination of a bunch of possible symptoms. Now, suppose that only two of these subjects have suicidal ideations. One takes a placebo, and the other takes drug X. They both stop having suicidal ideations. Can we conclude that drug X works for stopping suicidal ideations? Of course not because it might only be as effective as the placebo.

But it also happens that the medicine is much more effective than the placebo for the remaining patients. The researchers would then conclude that drug X stops "depression."

Now a shrink sees a suicidal patient. The shrink concludes that the patient is "depressed" because the presence of suicidal thoughts is a symptom of "depression." The shrink prescribes drug X for the patient because the above experiment showed that drug X stops "depression." The patient proceeds to jump off a bridge. Shrinks then conclude that it was either drug X or depression that caused the patient to jump off the bridge, yet they never stop to consider the possibility that it was something else in the patient's life that caused it.

When a person attempts suicide, shrinks say that he or she is, by definition, "depressed." Then these shrinks redefine "depression" so that it now means "has a chemical imbalance in the brain." Shrinks seldom take the time to ask, "Why did you attempt suicide?" Instead, they ask a bunch of ready made questions, such as, "Did your mother beat you when you were young?" or "How was your home life as a child?"-even if it was 50 years ago! They then toss a bunch of medicines at the patient, assuming that the cause of the suicide attempt is simply a chemical imbalance.

Drugs are the mainstay in the treatment of depression. When they do work, they benefit the patient by altering his or her brain chemistry. Yet doctors rarely, if ever, actually check the brain chemistry of their patients before prescribing such medicines. This explains why no medicine has ever been effective in reducing my "depression."

Consider the following instances when I became very "depressed," but mental health professionals and their medicines were of no help to me. One day, my Dad had a heart attack in front of me, but I did not know CPR. He died that night at the hospital, and I blamed his death on myself. I learned on the Internet that CPR is really so easy. I kept having flashbacks in which I saved my Dad's life by doing CPR. I saw some mental health professionals. They and their medicines were of no help to me.

When I worked at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, I rejected a patent application to a billionaire inventor. His attorney yelled and screamed at my cowardly second line supervisor, who then chewed me out for absolutely nothing. I had, for my first two fiscal years there been repeatedly told by my boss that I was the best patent examiner he had ever had. But, suddenly, my job became hell for me.
Now my boss wanted to somehow make my job miserable enough that I would leave the Patent Office.

A disc in my neck herniated, and I had terrible pain radiating down my left arm. In spite of the fact that he was not supposed to do this according to my performance plan, he took off one "workflow point" for each amended patent application that I failed to complete on time. While I was on the operating table, my boss was gleefully taking off enough workflow points to devastate my career. When it was time for my much deserved promotion, my boss refused to promote me because of the probably record number of workflow point subtractions. Because of the workflow subtractions, I was even denied reasonable accommodations for my spine.

I attempted to defend myself against the attorney who had filed the complaint against me by communicating respectfully with him, but I was punished and told never again to try to communicate with them. Eventually, I became extremely "depressed" and wound up seeing an army of shrinks. They and their medicines were of no help to me.

After quitting work because there was nothing more to look forward to there, I came to Chicago. I had paid my full rent at the beginning of 2005, but during the last month, my building manager accused me of not having paid rent for the last two months. He even put his face in mine and hurled all sorts of verbal abuse at me. In spite of the fact that I had extended my lease, I found myself sucked into eviction court. It wasn't until almost five months after the trouble began that they finally, with no apologies, dismissed their case with prejudice. Yes, I found myself "depressed" again, and I again saw an army of shrinks at a hospital. They and their medicines were of no help.

When I returned from the hospital, I found that more than $2,500 worth of items had been stolen from my apartment. And I knew that the new building manager, with the Janitor, had entered my apartment while I was at the hospital in order to remove a broken down refrigerator. The only people who are remotely likely to be the culprits are these two people. After experiencing what I experienced, the only people who would not find themselves extremely "depressed" must be insane to begin with.

At no point were mental health professionals really helpful in resolving these problems-problems that did not originate from my mind, but from mistreatment that had been meted out upon me by others. I honestly believe that many other people, with no chemical imbalances in their brains, are at times pushed to the point of severe depression, by any definition of "depression." I believe that people who show symptoms of depression would be better helped by a combination of people of many professions. Social workers, lawyers, doctors of every specialty, pharmacists, sociologists, etc., should all lend a hand.

But I doubt that the time will ever come when we handle "depression" effectively unless we are prepared to disappoint rich pharmaceutical companies, lawyers, inventors, landlords, and employers. It seems to me that it is these entities who benefit from shrinks who refuse to listen to patients and instead blame all of their problems on some hypothetical mental illnesses.

What we need is for people who can empathize with each other to communicate with each other. All around the world, we can probably use technology to find people who have problems that are similar to our own. When we find these people, we are likely to find that which we need most of all: empathy.

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