The World Health Organization reports that over 300M people around the globe and across all ages suffer from depression. Of this staggering amount, far fewer than half get any treatment for such a disorder.
While this percentage still seems small, more and more people are getting professional help each day. Treatment for depression has radically changed since depression was even first discovered to be an actual issue.
In this article, let’s explore what exactly has changed in the world of depression and treatment. Despite some stigma still existing today, you’ll be glad you didn’t live in the past.
During ancient times, people would attribute mental illness as a spiritual problem. People cited evil spirits and demons as causes of depression. Because of this, they would go to religious leaders for help. Treatment came in the form of starvation, physical restraint, and even severe beatings. This treatment was prevalent in Chinese and Egyptian cultures.
As for the Greeks, people credit Hippocrates, father of medicine, to be the first to come up with a somewhat formal idea about depression. Called melancholia during their time, he believed that an imbalance of body fluids or “humors” was responsible for depression. Melancholia was specifically caused by too much black bile from the spleen. Treatment was diet, exercise, and bloodletting.
Roman philosopher Cicero would later theorize that the cause of depression was psychological issues such as grief, fear, and anger.
During the Common Era (or equivalently, anno Domini), many people still believed that beatings and starvation should cure mental illness. One doctor, however, stood out. Persian physician and philosopher Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi or Rhazes would see mental illness differently. He believed that the brain had something to do with depression. The philosopher also believed in providing rewards for good behavior – an early form of behavioral therapy.
In 1621, Robert Burton published a book entitled “The Anatomy of Melancholy.” In this book, the English scholar described social and psychological reasons behind melancholy. These reasons included fear, poverty, and social isolation, which was the further work on the earlier theory of philosopher Cicero.
18th Century: The Age Of Enlightenment
Despite its name, many people continued to misunderstand mental illness during the Age of Enlightenment. For ordinary folk, they said this as something that people should be locked up for. Thus, those who suffered from depression were often isolated from society and did not receive the care they needed.
In the latter part of this era, other doctors tried to come up with alternative theories. Some sought out physical causes of depression. Others philosophized that internal conflict was to blame as people struggled between what they wanted and what they knew was right.
During the 19th century, there was a breakthrough in mental health. Emil Kraepelin, a German psychiatrist, distinguished the difference between manic depression and schizophrenia. He stated that there was a genetic basis for depression and much needed medical attention.
It was also around this time that psychoanalysis was starting to develop with the studies of Sigmund Freud.
During the 1900s, Sigmund Freud would continue to hone his theory of psychoanalysis. This theory would include developing hypotheses and studies on depression. He would write about depression being a response to some form of loss. This loss would be either physical, like a death in the family, or symbolic, like not being able to achieve a goal.
However, the medical world would not immediately accept Freud’s theory. Many still saw depression as a physical disorder of the brain. Many patients went in for lobotomies and electroconvulsive therapy. Lobotomies meant to calm patients down by destroying the frontal portion of the brain. The man who started the procedure, Antonio Egas Moniz, even won a Nobel Prize for this.
Summary And Latest Developments
Today, many doctors have now come to see mental illness far differently from before. It is no longer seen as a spiritual problem caused by demons and spirits – at least in the medical field. Depression is now understood to be the leading cause of ill health.
Many psychiatrists are now equipped with updated knowledge of different treatment methods. Therapists are also trained individuals who can provide people with treatment such as talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and even medication.
The only obstacle left between people and treatment is social stigma. We now have many proven methods that help with depression. We need only stand up and take control of our lives by taking the first step towards therapy.