“Depression is a scary diagnosis”

“Depression is a scary diagnosis,” a client said to me, reflecting on the last few years of his life.

“Depression is not a ‘disease’ but a metaphor”
I have worked with many clients , who have understandably felt upset to hear they have an illness that they’re told may, at any stage, suddenly reappear and needs to be ‘treated’ with lifelong psychotropic drugs.

Others find some solace in hearing depression is a disease. As the client described, initially it took the onus off him and onto the ‘chemical imbalance’ he was told he was born with, reassuring him that being depressed was not his fault (which is true – no one wants to be depressed!).

But, in fact, although depression is a state of mind that significantly affects energy levels in the body, there’s no real evidence that it has a biological cause beyond psychological learning or temporary response to one or more of life’s setbacks.

So with no real hard evidence for a physical cause, we can see that the idea of depression as ‘disease’ is itself nothing more than a metaphor – but one that is often assumed to be literally true.

We worked together to find ways my client could relax and stay calm. And, after a few sessions, he told me that he wasn’t frightened of depression anymore because he knew he could ‘knock it on the head’ if it showed up again.

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