Depression: A Problem in an Aggregate of Atoms?“The man who sees his neighbor only as an aggregate of atoms cannot have the same conception of his real self. He thus arrives necessarily at a fundamental contradiction.” – F. Husemann (1)
Throughout history, depression was thought of simply as a flawed character condition. Fifty years ago, pharmaceutical treatments for depression did not exist. A major breakthrough occurred in 1974, when a study by scientists at Eli Lilly and Company concluded that a cause of depression is a chemical imbalance manifested by a malfunctioning serotogenic system (2). Many researchers and doctors asserted that “depression is not a moral weakness, nor mental sloth, but a true brain disease that can be successfully treated” (3).The treatment took the form of a series of drugs which are collectively known as antidepressants. Most of the literature on these drugs takes a one sided approach on what causes depression and how a “single action” molecule can treat it. At the same time, often the same article, asserts that depression is a “whole body” illness that affects a person’s physical and mental health, taking hostage of his/her whole existence (4). One molecule must have the ability to treat this condition, successfully alleviating all bad thoughts, curing the physical troubles that go along with it, and in effect, correcting the state of depression. But like with everything in life, it is just not that simple.
Any inquiry into the depth of the nervous system has to begin with the understanding of its complexity. Many accounts of depression and the working of antidepressants, view human beings as “aggregation of atoms” and often fail to recognize the “real self,” which must at least encompass the complex and often incomprehensible interactions of those atoms.
Pablo Picasso, one of the most famous artists, asserted that “every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” In the study of the nervous system, and how it is affected by various chemicals, the act of creation can be viewed as the uncovering of the truth. But this inquiry has to begin with the recognition of our lack of understanding, that is, we must destroy our prejudices of the certainty of our knowledge. In the following paper I will point out our current awareness of the state of depression and how and why antidepressants are thought to work. Also I will present some of the contradicting issues which arise from implications of what we know and what we do not know about the state of depression and the medium of its conduction – the nervous system.