Depression became predominant explanations for a varietyDepression became predominant explanations for a variety

Depression
is a health problem that has affected human beings for many centuries. It is a
disorder that has appeared in historical documents produced by healers,
philosophers, and writers throughout the ages (Dombeck, et al, 2007), which
detailed the ways by which people have treated it. In Ancient Mesopotamia,
depression was initially referred to as “melancholia,” which first appeared in
writing during the second millennium BC (Dombeck, et al, 2007).  Depression, formerly known as melancholia,
is a mood disorder with a long history characterized by both fear and
understanding, and is still a prevalent condition today.

Unfortunately,
during the early ages, mental illness was attributed to sinister sources such
as demonic possessions and spiritual unrest. During the time of the Ancient
Greeks and Romans, there were varying views regarding melancholia and its
causes. In the 5th century BC, the historian Herodotus wrote about a
king who struggled with the influence of evil spirits and was eventually driven
mad. This reflected the widespread association of mental illness with unseen forces
such as demons and spirits. This view is like the Ancient Mesopotamian belief
as well as those held in the Ancient Babylonian, Chinese, and Egyptian
civilizations. This differs from the opinion of early Greek and Roman doctors
who treated depression as both a biological and psychological illness (Dombeck,
et al, 2007). However, among educated Romans, mental illness was still seen as
caused by the anger of the gods.

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During
the Middle Ages, religious beliefs influenced largely by Christianity became predominant
explanations for a variety of malaise including depression. People continued to
believe that mental illness was a contagious disease brought about by
possessions, hauntings, and curses. Thus, popular treatments during this time
included exorcisms and various forms of torture such as burning and drowning,
as well as isolation in lunatic asylums.

Upon
the arrival of the Renaissance in Italy during the 14th century,
which spread throughout Europe in the following 16th and 17th
centuries, the view on depression and mental illness in general was
characterized by both progression and regression (Dombeck, et al, 2007). While
witch hunts and executions of those deemed mentally unwell continued, doctors
were starting to return to the view that mental illness was due to natural
causes and that the mentally ill needed treatment that was humane and medically
sound instead of punitive and superstitious. In 1621, the scholar Robert Burton
published his most well-known work “The Anatomy of Melancholy” in which he
detailed the various psychological and social causes (among these: poverty,
fear, and solitude) of depression. He also recommended possible treatments for
the illness including diet, exercise, distraction, travel, herbal remedies, and
music therapy (Dombeck, et al, 2007).

At
the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment which spanned the 18th and
19th centuries, it was believed that depression was a sign of a weak
temperament which could not be treated (Dombeck, et al, 2007). Thus, those who
suffered from it became outcasts in society and were institutionalized for fear
of them passing on the “incurable” disease. No doubt this was a return to a regressive
view of mental illness which brought more harm than good to those who suffered
from them.

As
the view on depression varied throughout history, seesawing between medically
supported and religiously or superstitiously influenced, so too did the
treatments for it. The early “treatments,” as recounted earlier, were drowning,
burning, and exorcism, which were attempts to banish spiritual and demonic
influences which were believed to plague someone with mental illness. After the
fall of the Roman Empire, depressed people were tied up or locked away in
lunatic asylums not necessarily as treatment for the illness, rather to isolate
them from others. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), contemporary
treatments include anti-depression medications, psychotherapy or a combination
of both. Brain stimulation therapies are also explored in case symptoms are not
reduced. Anti-depressants are used to help the brain improve its chemical
balance, particularly for chemicals that affect mood and stress regulation.
However, depression is a complex disorder that goes beyond simple chemical
imbalance in the brain, rather it is a combination of many factors that
contribute to its onset. According to Harvard Health, “there are many possible
causes of depression, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic
vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. It’s
believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression. To be
sure, chemicals are involved in this process, but it is not a simple matter of
one chemical being too low and another too high. Rather, many chemicals are
involved, working both inside and outside nerve cells. There are millions, even
billions, of chemical reactions that make up the dynamic system that is
responsible for your mood, perceptions, and how you experience life. With this
level of complexity, you can see how two people might have similar symptoms of
depression, but the problem on the inside, and therefore what treatments will
work best, may be entirely different.” (2009). This is why no one size fits all
when it comes to treating depression, and the combination of various treatment
strategies vary from one person to the other.