The term "depression" is descriptive and vague. I believe the whole concept
of depression is flawed and needs to be revised. "Depression” does not point to
one discrete disorder but to a variety of unpleasant experiences common to all
humans. When the term “depression” is used without qualification, it is usually
misleading. Since antidepressant drugs have become a big business, the promotion
of "depression" as an illness, treatable with drugs has become a scandalous
enterprise with little or no merit.
Although the term “depression” was an invention of psychiatry the use of the
term is pervasive in medicine, the media and in folk psychology. Writers, TV
journalist and MD’s alike have been talking about “clinical depression” as if
the word “clinical” increased the credibility of this dubious term. The best use
of the term “depression’ is to point to someone who is unusually sad, critical
and angry; a person who does not enjoy life and withdraws from work, play and
close relationships with other humans.
Suppression and Oppression
All humans are involved in competition and negotiation with other humans. If
you are losing a competitive struggle, you feel, sad and angry, sometimes with a
terrible sense of loss; you want to withdraw, hide, cry and sometimes you want
to die. If you habitually lose competitions or have an effective oppressor close
by, you feel dysphoric often or always. We call this social inhibition,
oppression or suppression rather than depression.
The symptoms are features of a withdrawal-inhibition-supplication response
that occurs normally in social mammals to reduce the consequences of power
struggles for dominance in a social hierarchy. Subordinate individuals in any
primate group are more or less “depressed.” They have to withdraw when
challenged by superior animals, supplicate and inhibit their self-serving,
aggressive inclinations. All humans experience episodes of withdrawal with
inhibition and supplication if someone threatens or is mean or if privileges,
property or prestige are lost. Whole groups of humans experience collective
depression when the group is threatened or diminished in some way. Suicide is
equated with depression, but self-inflicted death is a deep and troubling human
behavior that cannot be explained away as an illness. Self-inflicted death may
follow loss of prestige and property and is associated either with giving up
hope of desired rewards, or anger at the inequities and injustices of the
A reasonable person will acknowledge that life is difficult and suffering is
inevitable. Everything we value is impermanent. Every feature of each of us is
in flux and we change continuously. We age. We become ill. We suffer injury and
loss. No human knows what comes next so that uncertainty is a constant
companion. Modern life in cities is not normal for humans who emerged from
living in small groups in natural environments and whose basic tendencies want
to continue in that style of living, but cannot.
Psychiatrist, Clements observes that normal feelings and the inevitable
sadness of life are often denied and turned into a disease that can be treated
with expensive chemicals. She stated: “Sorrow is not recognized as part of the
human condition and reactive sadness is viewed as a medical illness, a pathology
rather than a normal and very human response… I confess I cry for humanity, and
another person's tears tend to generate tears in my eyes too. If sorrow can be
avoided, well and good. But the reality is sorrow is an integral part of the
complicated system of the cosmos, and of human existence.
Depression, a vague label, what is the correct diagnosis ?
Depression as a medical diagnosis is equated with “mood disorder’ and as a
problem located inside one individual. Much of the content that is included
under the term “depression” has little or nothing to do with mood and involves
changes in body function, cognitive dysfunction and changes in specific
behaviors. The main textbook features of “depression” are withdrawal from and
loss the loss of interest in job, family, social activities and personal
hobbies. "Depressed thinking" is said to be pessimistic, critical of others and
oneself and tends toward guilty ruminations and suicidal thoughts.
Research into the neurobiology of “depression’ has produced a bewildering
display of abnormalities, not because depression is a real illness with a lot of
abnormal findings, but because people gathered together under this diagnosis are
a heterogeneous group with many contributing disorders. Some are just sad,
lonely people with poor diets, poor living conditions, family conflict, no fun
and little exercise.
It should be obvious that some people are happier than others and some people
live under a cloud of doom.; The reader needs to recall our basic understanding
of genetics. The idea is that all human characteristics are distributed and, no
matter what human feature you are considering, you will find some individuals
with more and some with less. When you accumulate sufficient data and do the
appropriate statistics, you will have an idea about the distribution of the
feature and an indirect understanding of the genetic and environmental
determinants of that feature. When researchers reported that variations in a
gene they were studying more or less correlated with the tendency to become
depressed, the media ran cover page stories linking the gene to “stress” to
depression and promising new tests and treatments. Helen Person in her review of
the study stated:’
“The gene, which encodes a protein called 5-HTT, reveals its influence when
people experience divorce, debt, unemployment or other occasions of "threat,
loss, humiliation or defeat. People carrying two short forms of the 5-HTT gene
had a 43% chance of becoming clinically depressed after four or more stressful
events experienced between the ages of 21 and 26. This compares with 17% of
those with two long ones… The new results also raise the prospect of genetic
tests to predict those who are vulnerable to depression. But this remains
unlikely, partly because there is no clear preventative therapy for those at
risk.. Such a test would also be unreliable. Of the two-thirds of the general
population with one or two short stress-sensitive genes, only a fraction becomes
depressed. Many other genes and experiences, such as physical illness, are
involved. These must be identified before an accurate risk assessment can be
Many of the symptoms included under the title of “depression” are typical of
common food-related diseases including diabetes, atherosclerosis, malnutrition,
hormonal dysfunction and delayed pattern food allergy. All these problems
require diet revision. We suggest that a prudent person suffering depression and
body symptoms would be wise to pursue vigorous, thorough diet revision at the
earliest opportunity. Because some brain dysfunction compromises judgment
learning and motivation, family members, friends and professional advisors often
have to provide the right direction and support.
Listen to Depression, a New Perspective.
Continue Learning with the Depression Tutorial
You are viewing the Brain Mind Center at Alpha Online.
Understanding the human brain is essential to become a well-informed, modern
citizen. Stephen Gislason MD, the author of
the Human Brain, is a physician-writer who is good at making complex subjects more
understandable. This is a book with important ideas, so be prepared to read
and then keep the book as reference.
Alpha Online is a Division of Environmed Research, founded in 1984 at
Vancouver, BC, Canada. Online Since 1995. Alpha Nutrition is a trademark
and a division of Environmed Research Inc.
Download The Human Brain as an eBook
All Alpha Education and Persona Digital books, eBooks and Starter packs are ordered online.
Prices are listed in Canadian Dollars.
US $ cost is lower
depending on the daily dollar exchange rate. Physical shipments by the Post
Office are available to all destinations in the USA and Canada. We are located in Sechelt, close to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. eMail:
This starter pack includes the Alpha Nutrition Program, the Human Brain in Health and Disease
and one 500 Gram jar of Alpha DMX. There are a host of clues that link the food supply to mysterious and threatening neurological
diseases. We suggest that a prudent person suffering early brain-dysfunction
symptoms would be wise to pursue vigorous, thorough diet revision at the
earliest opportunity. Because some brain dysfunction compromises judgment
learning and motivation, family members, friends and professional advisor often
have to initiate diet revision and provide the right direction and support.
Click the Add to Cart buttons
on the left to begin your order for printed books from Alpha Online (mail delivery to US and
Canada). Download eBooks Click the Download button to order
eBooks (PDF file) for download. Click book title (center column) to read topics
from each book.