via Huffington Post, by Dr. Andrew Weil
Depression can be devastating. Its worst form, major depressive disorder, is marked by all-encompassing low mood, thoughts of worthlessness, isolation, and loss of interest or pleasure in most or all activities. But this clinical description misses the deep, experiential horror of the condition; the suffocating sense of despair that can make life seem too arduous to bear.
Here's something else we can say confidently about depression: it is complex. The cause is often a mix of factors including genetic brain abnormalities, sunlight deprivation, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and social issues including homelessness and poverty. Also, cause and effect can be hard to tease apart -- is social isolation a cause or an effect of depression?
Unfortunately, we can make one more unassailable observation about depression: the disorder -- or, more precisely, the diagnosis -- has gone stratospheric. An astonishing 10 percent of the U.S. population was prescribed an antidepressant in 2005; up from 6 percent in 1996.
Why has the diagnosis become so popular? There are likely several reasons. It's possible that more people today are truly depressed than they were a decade ago. Urbanized, sedentary lifestyles; nutrient-poor processed food; synthetic but unsatisfying entertainments and other negative trends, all of which are accelerating, may be driving up the rate of true depression. But I doubt the impact of these trends has nearly doubled in just ten years.