In 2009 Andrews and Thompson published a major new paper which considered depression from a radically different perspective. They noted that depression is more prevalent than most mental disorders (around seven percent of the population, rather than just one or two percent), and asked if it is possible that depression is a positive adaptation. In a popular article on the scholarly work, one of the researchers, Thomson, wondered about the use of antidepressants:
“I remember one patient who came in and said she needed to reduce her dosage,” [Thomson] says. “I asked her if the antidepressants were working, and she said something I’ll never forget. ‘Yes, they’re working great,’ she told me. ‘I feel so much better. But I’m still married to the same alcoholic son of a bitch. It’s just now he’s tolerable.’” (Lehrer, 2010, p. 5). To read Lehrer's article click References and scroll to his name.
One way to look at depression, then, is that it is the emotional equivalent of physical pain. Pain is not bad or wrong – it focuses us on an important problem in order to prevent damage to the body. Similarly, depression focuses the attention on an emotional problem. Neither pain nor depression is pleasant, and both can stay around long after the message has been received.
Narrative reframing of the way a problem is seen can be extremely helpful in addressing depression. At a very minimum this reframing would be an excellent supplement to drug therapy. In a review of data submitted to the FDA between 1987 and 1999 for the six most popular antidepressants, Kirsch, et al. (2009) found that approximately 80% of the effectiveness of the drugs was suggestive effect.
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