TED Conversations

Allan Macdougall

TEDCRED 50+

This conversation is closed.

Is depression a dysfunctional reaction to something considered 'normal', or a normal reaction to something dysfunctional?

I find it improbable that there happens to be in these modern times, a pandemic of neurochemical deficit in westernised populations giving rise to depression.

What I would like to know is:

Why is depression less prevalent in more traditional societies?

Is a neurochemical deficit (ie serotonin, dopamine etc) a symptom of depression rather than a cause? If it is, then are we mistakenly treating it as a cause? Are we treating the wrong thing by prescribing more chemicals (antidepressants)?

Is depression really an illness, or is it an indicator of something more fundamentally wrong, external to ourselves (illness in society maybe?)

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Aug 15 2011: I remember i asked a psychiatrist a similar question that whether the chemical deficit is a symptom or a cause and he answered the symptom and cause are actually interactive with each other,hard to say which one comes first.

    I think cognitive treatment of depression is more based on the rationale that depression is a dysfuctional reaction to something normal thats where people would say why different individuals react differently to the same thing.I dont know any therapies that helps dealling with the external things in society but i know therapies that tends to look one family system as a whole and that depression is seen as a symptom of a dysfuctional family or relationships.

    I am curious how you draw that conclusion that depression is less prevalent in more traditional societies?
    • thumb
      Aug 15 2011: Hi Amily. Just to try and clarify that conclusion: My brother in law is Melanesian. He is one of the most charming, grounded, wise men I know. He says that depression was unknown in his society, but is now becoming more prevalent the more westernised his society is becoming. I had the privelege of being able to visit his village and meet his extended family a while back. What really struck me was how well-behaved the children were, and how the simple the adult pleasures were of 'storying', fishing for your own food, making shelter out of rainforest materials etc.

      I'm fairly sure that other traditional societies are similar, although I don't have much in the way of empirical data to prove this.

      It's interesting what you say about dysfunctional family relationships. I think a close, 'functional' family is almost definitely a grounding influence, which can effectively prevent depression from getting a foothold. Close families effectively have a 'built-in counselling service'. But with families becoming more fragmented, we now have to pay for our counselling.
      • thumb
        Aug 16 2011: Hi Allan , i wish i could visit his village like you did!(especially when you mentioned "fishing for own food"part ;-D)

        so when you say traditional societies you mean those that are less westernised?
        • thumb
          Aug 16 2011: I guess so. 'Traditional Society' works for me as a description.

          Some might say 'primitive' but I'm reluctant to use the word because of it's implied negativity. They are only primitive in the material sense. In very many other respects, they are way ahead of us.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.