Depression has colonized the world. Today, more than 300 million of us have been diagnosed as depressed. But 150 years ago, "depression" referred to a mood, not a sickness. Does that mean people weren't sick before, only sad? Of course not. Mental illness is a complex thing, part biological, part social, its definition dependent on time and place. But in the mid-twentieth century, even as European empires were crumbling, new Western clinical models and treatments for mental health spread across the world. In so doing, "depression" began to displace older ideas like "melancholia," the Japanese "utsush?," or the Punjabi "sinking heart" syndrome. Award-winning historian Jonathan Sadowsky tells this global story, chronicling the path-breaking work of psychiatrists and pharmacists, and the intimate sufferings of patients. Revealing the continuity of human distress across time and place, he shows us how different cultures have experienced intense mental anguish, and how they have tried to alleviate it. He reaches an unflinching conclusion: the devastating effects of depression are real. A number of treatments do reduce suffering, but a permanent cure remains elusive. Throughout the history of depression, there have been overzealous promoters of particular approaches, but history shows us that there is no single way to get better that works for everyone. Like successful psychotherapy, history can liberate us from the negative patterns of the past.
Electroconvulsive Therapy is widely demonized or idealized. Some detractors consider its very use to be a human rights violation, while some promoters depict it as a miracle, the "penicillin of psychiatry." This book traces the American history of one of the most controversial procedures in medicine, and seeks to provide an explanation of whyECT has been so controversial, juxtaposing evidence from clinical science, personal memoir, and popular culture. Contextualizing the controversies about ECT, instead of simply engaging in them, makes the history of ECT more richly revealing of wider changes in culture and medicine. It shows that the application of electricity to the brain to treat illness is not only a physiological event, but also one embedded in culturally patterned beliefs about the human body, the meaning of sickness, and medical authority.