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Depression Research Paper (Research Paper Sample)


The paper is on depression, causes, management of depression and effects of depression on those who have it.


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Depression is a common occurrence in this day and age. Statistics say that it affects about 121 million people around the world and it is among the leading causes of disabilities among the world’s population. Simply put, depression is a disorder of the mind, and those with depression exhibit some characteristics such as: loss of interest in daily life activities, feelings of unworthiness or guilt; lack of sleep as well as appetite for food; loss of sexual interest in some cases; poor concentration, and others. A depressed person is one who has generally lost interest in life, and with the continual existence of such feelings, a severely depressed person maybe unable to take care of themselves, in addition to their everyday life responsibilities. Untreated depression, or failure to a patient’s response to treatment can lead to a host of tragedies one of which is suicide; about 850,000 lives are yearly lost due to depression induced suicide (Beck, & Brad, 30-60).
As of now, the research conducted on depression indicates that there are three main types of depression, and they include: major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disease which is also sometimes referred to as manic-depressive disease. In a brief description, major depression can either happen once in a person’s life, but often times, it occurs several times during a person’s life. Symptoms of major depression include inability to sleep, eat, work, and enjoy leisure related activities. Dysthymia typically includes long-term chronic depressive symptoms that seem to never go away. These symptoms inhibit the proper functioning of a person (Fink & Allan, 23). Those persons diagnosed with dysthymia normally have major depressive bouts at some periods in their lives. An individual with bipolar disorder is one who constantly experiences mood changes of mania and depression. The mood changes from mania to depression or vice versa can quickly happen, but most often, they are gradual. When a person is in the manic cycle, they have more energy than normal, so one may find them to be for example too talkative. When a person with bouts of mania is not treated, they may reach a psychotic level, which is not good for their overall wellbeing. When an individual is at the depression phase of the cycle, they typically exhibit some or even all the characteristics of a depressive disorder (Klein & Paul, 110-150).
Depression is an unfortunate occurrence in the lives of human beings, but it makes for interesting study. The above introduction on depression has just given us a snippet of the current research and understanding of depression. It is though of importance, and for purposes of thorough completion of the requirements of this paper, that we delve deeper into the topic of depression. This paper will have three sections. Section one will give a historical analysis of depression, emphasizing on how depression was viewed, treated, and the likes across historical times. Section two, will give evidence to prove that treatment of mental illness is gradually moving towards more enlightened treatments, and in addition, it will give evidence on the contrary. The last section, will examine how the social and cultural character of the 18th century shaped people’s understanding of mental illness, and treatment of the mentally ill persons.
Section I
Depression has for centuries now been a health problem for human beings. Depression was initially known as melancholia, and historical publications and documents, written by ancient healers, philosophers, doctors and the likes, evidence the fact that depression has been a continuous problem for human beings especially in terms of finding ways to treat it (Fink & Allan, 67). As mentioned, depression was linguistically known as melancholia, by the earliest accounts of it, which date all the way back to ancient Mesopotamia. People from the second millennium B.C. attributed depression to demonic presence in individuals, thus depressed persons were at that time often times attended to by priests. Doctors or physicians of that day and age treated only physical injuries, never touching cases of depressed people. Thus it is safe to conclusively say, that depression in its first forms was understood to be a spiritual illness, and not a physical one.
Persons from the early Babylonian, Chinese and Egyptian civilizations also concurred that depression was caused by evil spirits and demons, and they would beat, restrain and even starve depressed individuals as an attempt to rid them of their evil spirits/depression. A contrasting view from the Babylonians, Chinese and Egyptians was seen in the Romans and Greeks. Practicing doctors from Rome and Greece saw depression to be both a psychological and biological problem. They diverted from the brutal methods of curing depression and instead treated the disease using massages, special diets, music, baths, and the likes. During that time, Hippocrates, a famous Greek physician came up with the belief that depression was caused or related to balanced or imbalanced body fluids which were termed humours. He classifies the humours into yellow bile, black bile, blood and phlegm (Beck, & Brad, 98). He additionally categorized mental illness into mania, melancholia, and brain fever and to treat such, he prescribed a technique which involved removing blood from a person’s body, bathing a person, exercise and the likes. In contrast, a famous Roman Philosopher Cicero believed that depression had to have been caused by anger, fear, and grief; he believed depression to be more mental than physical. With time, the influence of Hippocrates view faded, and people went back to viewing depression as caused by demons (Shorter, 1-150).
Then came the Middle Ages whereby as Christianity was the dominant religion, it influenced beliefs on mental illness and depression. People at that time thought that mentally ill or depressed individuals were demon possessed, or witches and they could invariably infect others with their craziness. Such people were treated through exorcisms, but there were others who were more inhumane and believed that such people should be drowsed and burned and indeed, some mentally ill individuals of that time were barbarically put to death. There were however few doctors who didn’t believe that depressed people were demon possessed and they instead though that the disease was called by imbalanced body humors, poor diet and sorrow. These minority doctors instead of burning, they locked up mentally ill people in lunatic asylums (Purse).
The Renaissance period which began in the 14th century and spread out to the 16th and 17th century saw divergent ideas concerning mental illness and depression. In Europe, witch hunts, and executions of mentally ill persons was the order of the day. Later on, view changed and people reverted to the beliefs of Hippocrates as regards mentally ill individuals. People reverting to Hippocrates’s beliefs saw witches to be mentally disturbed people who should be medically and humanely treated. During that time, Anatomy of Melancholy was published by Robert Burton, and he described depression to be caused by both social and psychological problems. He recommended that depressed individuals be treated through special diets, exercise, traveling, cleansers, bloodletting, herbal medications, music, and the likes (McIntosh, 120).
In the 18th and 19th century, also known as the Age of Enlightenment, depression was thought to be an inheritable illness, characterized by unchangeable weakness of temperament. Depressed individuals of this time were locked up in lunatic asylums, and abandoned by their families and friends, and this led to poverty and homelessness as regards depressed individuals (Purse).
At the latter days of the Age of Enlightenment, there were physicians who thought aggression to be the cause of depression. These physicians advised that patients be treated through exercise, medicine, proper diet, and counseling by friends and or a doctor. Other physicians in this age thought that depression was caused by internal conflicts within a person and others that depression was caused by physical aspects. Other treatments especially in the 19th century included water immersion, electroshock therapy and horseback riding among others. (McIntosh, 135)
In 1895, a defining moment came because depression was distinguished from schizophrenia by a German Psychiatrist called Emil Kraepelin. Psychoanalysis was at this time the popular treatment for depression. Freud was the advocate for this treatment, and he believed depression to be caused by a person’s unconscious anger over loss of weakened ego. These treatments didn’t really work for persons who were severely depressed and in the 20th century, lobotomy was popularly used to treat depression. Lobotomies often didn’t work, and they resulted in adverse effects such as comas and even death. Electroconvulsive therapy, which was a treatment for schizophrenics, was also tried out on depressed people (Purse).
In the 1950s and 1960s, medical practitioners classified and divided depression into subtypes which were based on what caused the disorder. There were subtypes such as endogenous depression which is thought to be caused by genetics or other physical problems. There was also neurotic depression which was caused by changes in one’s environment, such as the death of a loved one. In this time, treatments for depression were looked for. Medications such as isoniazid were used in treatment (Ries, 105). During this time, theories in psychology were used as approaches to psychotherapy. Theories such as behaviorism, cognitive, humanistic thera...
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