Depression is not a disease of the brain, a genetic disability or even a mood disorder. Rather, shutdown, numbness or sadness are non-pathological adaptations to adverse childhood and adult environments. This challenging book thus understands depression as a wise response to an unliveable situation. It can teach us what is wrong with our lives and what we must learn in order to go beyond symptom relief and reconnect to our most fundamental needs, relational, existential and spiritual. Because moods shape how we engage with our outer and inner worlds, they underlie all human behaviour. If the sociocultural world is toxic or frustrates our core needs, we will withdraw to protect ourselves. Those who have encountered a non-facilitating environment in childhood will be even more sensitive to adult stresses, since their self-organisation is fragile and non-resilient. As depression is so complex, understanding it demands an integrative approach.
Barbara Dowds brings a wealth of disciplinary perspectives to the subject of depression. Alongside analysing 21 published memoirs of depression, and sensitively demonstrating depression’s many nuances, she threads in relevant psychotherapeutic theory, and discusses a biopsychosocial model rooted in early life experiences. Dowds concisely presents evolutionary, neuroscience, genetic, epigenetic and microbiological factors. Linking these foci with social breakdown phenomena, she examines depression as a disorder of the self. This book is surely one of the most passionate, intelligent and hopeful contributions to our understanding of an accelerating modern epidemic. It deserves the attention of all mental health professionals, social scientists and enquiring individuals.
Colin Feltham, Emeritus Professor, Sheffield Hallam University. His most recent works are Feltham, C. (2017) Depressive Realism: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Routledge) and Sarraf, M., Woodley of Menie, M. & Feltham, C. (forthcoming) Modernity, Nihilism and Mental Health (Routledge)
This book's deep, multifaceted exploration of depression challenges our current thinking. For Barbara Dowds, depression is not so much about 'mood' or genes as it is about the problem of getting innate human needs met. Dowds is equally at home whether she is discussing this in terms of early child development, a loss of connection with others or altered physical sense of self, or depression as the lurking underbelly of our narcissistic and materialistic society. I admire her wide reach and agree with her that the growing epidemic of depression requires social change as well as individual support.
Sue Gerhardt, author of Why Love Matters (Routledge) and The Selfish Society (Simon & Schuster)
Part I: The Self: Experience and Development
Chapter One: The experience of depressive breakdown: the role of loss and rejection
Chapter Two: The many ways of not being true to yourself
Chapter Three: Depression as consequence and cause of somatic conditions
Chapter Four: Childhood development: what does it take to build a self?
Part II: The Science of Depression
Chapter Five: Low mood as an appropriate adaptive response: an evolutionary perspective
Chapter Six: What science can tell us about depression: neuroscience, genetics and epigenetics; gut microbiota
Part III: A Depressive Society? The Impact on the Self, Relationships and Meaning
Chapter Seven: A non-facilitating environment?: the role of contemporary society and culture
Chapter Eight: Empty (narcissistic), false or fragmented: disorders of the self in later modernity,
Chapter Nine: The centrality of relationships: anxiety and the loss of connection
Chapter Ten: Depression and Meaninglessness: the loss of connecting and experiencing
Chapter Eleven: Fundamental human needs: a conclusion