Depression: a Brain Disease?

Mark Rothko, untitled (Blue, Green, and Brown), 1952. Mark Rothko suffered from depression and killed himself by cutting his wrists in 1970.

The biological approach regards depression as a disease that affects the functioning of the brain. The first link will take you to a tutorial that provides an overview of depression, its symptoms (clinical characteristics), how it is diagnosed, what causes it, and its treatment. It presents a medical view of depression and claims that depression is caused by an imbalance in neurotransmitters, that it can be inherited, and modern medicine is successful in treating it.

Click here for an online tutorial produced by medlineplus that presents a biological approach to depression and regards it as a disease

Some people who have experienced major depression also argue that it is a physical illness:

"First of all, forget purely psychological explanations of the illness. Clinical depression is a physical illness which so happens to affect the brain".

Click here to read Demystifying Depression which argues depression is a physical illness

However, many psychologists have argued that psychosocial factors and psychological processes are important causal factors.

"There is ongoing debate regarding the relative importance of genetic or environmental factors, or gross brain problems versus psychosocial functioning".

Click here for a detailed analysis of Depression from wikipedia

Freud argued in Mourning and Melancholia (1915) that depression can be caused by significant trauma, especially the loss of a parent in early life, and is a form of maladaptive grieving. He claimed that people who experienced problems at the oral stage of development were more vulnerable to depression in adulthood. A significant loss in later life causes the individual to regress to the oral stage of development as a defence against overwhelming distress. They may also, through the process of introjection, direct their feelings for the lost love object onto themselves. These feelings may include anger and hatred at being abandoned, rejected, unloved and unsafe, and may also involve the person in blaming themselves for the loss.

Click here for an online exhibition on Freud

Link to a series of radio broadcasts by Lisa Appignanesi in which she discussess five of Freuds major works with psychologists and psychoanalysts

Click here for an outline of Freud's life, theories, and psychoanalysis

Complete this essay for next week:

"Biological explanations of depression tell us all we need to know about this disorder"

Critically consider biological explanations of depression, with reference to the issue raised in the quotation above. (30 marks)

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