It Still Bothers Them

April 27th, 2007

BAM Why do people fear that treating depression will rob them of creativity?

Peter Kramer When we romanticize depression we are thinking of a sort of brilliant, dark, young man or woman who is writing fiction or a PhD thesis, when the real picture of depression is a young single mother who has not gotten as far in her education as she could have, who has less of a job than she would have, who struggles with drug abuse and is not raising her kids well. That really is what depression feels like.

In my own practice, I have not seen people robbed of creativity when they get better.

BAM How does the medical community view your work?

PK I had a very eminent neurologist say, "I understand what you're saying, and I don't know how to state any objection to it, but it still bothers me that you're saying this is the same kind of disease as epilepsy." That reluctance is still there.

I really try to make the case that there are brain changes stemming from depression; they are not normal variance. But you're weighing that kind of clarity in the medical evidence against two millennia of humankind living with depression and taking it as some aspect of character or as a stigma of being either chosen or sinful.

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Related Issue
November / December 2005