Got the blues? quick, write a song! You only need three chords. Okay. Done? Good.
Now sit tight for two weeks and hopefully you'll feel better. If not, then head to your doc and get some help, because you might be clinically depressed. Sort of. Then again, say some, maybe not.
Good gosh. If you think there's an easy way to find out if you're suffering from a bout of melancholy or actually clinically depressed, chemical imbalance and all, think again.
There are lots and lots of points of view on the subject. And, of course, some believe it's all a conspiracy and the pharmaceutical companies are out to bleed us dry one phony diagnosis at a time. (Insert evil pharmaceutical company laughter here.) A less unilateral critique warns that we at least need to take another look at the way diagnoses are being arrived at.
Who's right? It seems there may be no obvious answer.
Bottom line, if sadness persists, don't keep it to yourself. Talk to someone you trust.
What the experts say
"To diagnose clinical depression, a patient must have five of the following symptoms for two weeks or more. These are remembered by the phrase Face is sad': fatigue, appetite change, concentration impairment, esteem (deterioration), interest (loss of), sleep disturbance (insomnia or constant sleeping), suicidal thinking, anxiety, depressed mood. Depression is not obvious, because people consider being sad a normal part of life. We under-diagnose it. That doesn't mean we should be giving everybody antidepressants. One of the first steps is talking therapy ."
MARK BERBER , consultant psychiatrist, Markham General Hospital, lecturer, department of psychiatry, U of T
"By calling melancholy depression,' you're taking an experience that has been reported for thousands of years among millions of people and calling it a disease. If you pathologize something, you allow people to think of themselves as sick, which contributes to their overall sense of deficiency and withdraws attention from things they could do something about, whether it's a bad marriage or a bad job. You try to make an intolerable situation tolerable, which may be good if you can't do anything about it, but not so good if you can. When you make a disease out of melancholy, you tell people they have a chemical imbalance, which encourages them to think of themselves as collections of neuro-chemicals. This has a profound impact on how they behave. The distinction between melancholy and depression is fictional. It's a distraction from the real question, which is why a whole lot of people are unhappy.'
GARY GREENBERG , psychotherapist, New London, Connecticut
"The Achilles heel of the current set of criteria for depression is that, apart for loss of a loved one, it doesn't allow an exception in the diagnosis for a disaster you may be responding to normally with grief or sadness. We all know that sudden separation from a lover, betrayal, loss of a valued job or diagnosis of a medical condition in yourself or a loved one are capable of causing two weeks of symptoms that make up the diagnosis of depression. That means a lot of folks who would qualify under the system of diagnosis are actually normal. The consumer of mental health services should be aware that this sort of symptom-checklist diagnosis may lead to over-diagnosis ."
JEROME C. WAKEFIELD , professor of social work, New York University, co-author, The Loss Of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow Into Depressive Disorder
"There isn't a shamanic Prozac. As to the distinction between depression and melancholy, we're getting into the semantics of emotional subjective experiences. When somebody walks into my journey space and we sit down to get a picture of what his or her issues are, out of that conversation comes a number of possibilities. Maybe the person has soul loss, a huge wound from some life event that's draining their energy. As we get older, those holes from soul wounds and loss just leak energy. I might do a soul retrieval . Another possibility is that some entity has attached itself and is feeding off the person. I might do an extraction or even a power animal retrieval to see if we can boost the situation."
DAVID LANG , shamanic practitioner, Eugene Oregon
"Melancholy is a temporary state induced by present circumstances. I clear the field (through touch and sweeping motions) and the chakras (by holding a hand over the chakra), and people often feel more optimistic. A good cry can do it or meaningful contact with a friend. Depression is much deeper and often results from childhood wounding and repeated experiences later on in life. This takes weeks of clearing , talking and loving affirmation . Energetically, depression is a very thick, sticky accumulation in the field that takes a lot of energy to remove."
JANE MOODY , energy medicine therapist, Calgary