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‘Depression by any other name...’
  1. P. K. Bridges


    There is a popular conviction that psychological disturbance is invariably a reaction to environmental events. This approach is associated with total rejection of the so-called ‘medical model’. However, allowance must be made for the fact that contemporary knowledge of psychiatric illness is well behind what is now known about general medicine, and current ideas about psychiatric aetiology may be emotionally determined to give satisfying concepts which are often almost impossible to refute.

    By tracing the progress of some hypotheses in general medicine, as they developed in the past, there are similarities with some current observations about the methods of action of physical treatments in psychiatry, treatments which have been discovered empirically.

    There is a widespread assumption that psychological responses relate precisely to the degree of evoking stress or the patient's personal attitudes to the stress. However, emotional responsiveness may show an intrinsic individual variation so that many patients who over-respond to stress may do so because of enhanced responsiveness rather than necessarily because psychological events have brought about a state of vulnerability.

    The exclusively dynamic approach to psychiatry has been perhaps unnecessarily encouraged by naming an illness ‘endogenous depression’ which could well be a primarily physical metabolic disturbance in the central nervous system but which happens to present with prominent depression, as well as other abnormalities. The emphasis on the component of depressed mood artificially delineates the illness and tends to impede consideration of its wider implications.

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