Title

Challenging Normative Orthodoxies in Depression: Huxley's Utopia or Dante's Inferno?

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

4-2010

Abstract

Although there appears to be a widespread consensus that depression is a ubiquitous human experience, definitions of depression, its prevalence, and how mental health services respond to it have changed significantly over time, particularly during recent decades. Epistemological limitations notwithstanding, it is now estimated that approximately 121 million people experience depression. At the same time, it should be acknowledged that the last two decades have seen the widespread acceptance of depression as a chemical imbalance and a massive corresponding increase in the prescription of antidepressants, most notably of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). However, questions have been raised about the effectiveness and iatrogenic side effects of antidepressants; related questions have also been asked about whose interests are served by the marketing and sales of these drugs. Accordingly, this article attempts to problematize the normative orthodoxy concerning depression and creates a “space” in which an alternative can be articulated and enacted. In so doing, the article finds that the search for a world where the automatic response to depression is a pharmacological intervention not only ignores the use of alternative efficacious treatment options but may also inhibit the persons' chance to explore the meaning of their experience and thus prevent people from individual growth and personal development. Interestingly, in worlds analogous to this pharmacologically induced depression-free state, such as utopias like that in Huxley's Brave New World, no “properly conditioned citizen” is depressed or suicidal. Yet, in the same Brave New World, no one is free to suffer, to be different, or crucially, to be independent.

Comments

To acquire a personal use copy of this work, contact John Cutcliffe at john.cutcliffe@wright.edu.

DOI

10.1016/j.apnu.2009.06.004