New research is challenging the assumption that the world's most common
mental ailment is just a chemical imbalance in the brain.
"Death was now a daily presence, blowing over me in cold gusts.
Mysteriously and in ways that are totally remote from normal
experience, the gray drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on
the quality of physical pain. But it is not an immediately identifiable
pain, like that of a broken limb. It may be more accurate to say that
despair, owing to some evil trick played upon the sick brain by the
inhabiting psyche, comes to resemble the diabolical discomfort of being
imprisoned in a fiercely overheated room. And because no breeze stirs
this caldron, because there is no escape from the smothering
confinement, it is entirely natural that the victim begins to think
ceaselessly of oblivion." —William Styron
Melancholy is a fertile muse. No sooner had William Styron become the
poet laureate of depression after describing his bout with madness in
Darkness Visible when all manner of confessions followed. Mike Wallace.
Art Buchwald. Dick Cavett lined up to disclose their own struggles with
the disabling disorder. It quickly became acceptable, even chic, to
publicly confide vulnerability to depression.
At the same time, the world was being made safe for depression, or at
least public revelations of it, by another development, the 1988 advent
of the so-called SSRIs—Prozac, Paxil and related drugs believed to
specifically combat depression by beefing up serotonin and other
neurotransmitters that ferry signals between nerve cells. The wild
success of psychiatrist Peter D. Kramer's thoughtful Listening to
Prozac generated not only new respect for the effectiveness of Prozac
but new appreciation of the disorder it was intended to treat.