Note to readers of the earlier post on this topic: I caused some confusion by referring to “depression” not as clinical depression but more as general unhappiness. The clinical definition of depression is better suited to a discussion of antidepressants, and I’m more interested in unhappiness caused by societal factors.
Nevertheless I asked Heath what odds he’d give on clinical depression being caused primarily by external societal forces rather than purely internal ones, and he had this to say:
This question is both good and bad. First, allow me to address part of your question using a hypothetical situation.
Andrew, an American of middling intelligence, purchases a home that is objectively beyond his financial means. He also drives a fine car (he’s leasing) and collects wines. Andrew relishes the envy of his friends and relatives, that is until restructuring in the loan industry causes him to declare bankruptcy and lose his house. Subsequent to the loss of his home, Andrew becomes depressed.
What is the cause of Andrew’s depression? There isn’t any one cause. Andrew’s materialism caused him to make decisions that ultimately led to the loss of his house, but Andrew will probably be more likely to blame his bankruptcy, the proximate cause of his suffering. We can apportion blame many different ways. I’m inclined to agree with Andrew, since it’s his head, and the drawbacks of materialism are probably the last things on his mind. Still, I can see Colter’s point that the ultimate source of trouble is society. It seems plausible that a lack of fit between an individual and the larger society could lead to depression. I believe that more immediate and salient factors are more likely to have an effect on an individual’s mood.
This ends the good part.
Here begins the bad part: the distinctions “purely internal” and “purely external” are bogus. Depression is a maladaptive response to events (internal and external) characterized by pervasive negative emotions. It will always have internal and external factors.
1) Dear homeowners, please pretend it actually works this way. Whether this is factually accurate isn’t important to the proof.
2) Right — who here is part of society? You? Right then, you’re under arrest.