“Every emotion you have is a set of neurons firing ... some in the brain, some elsewhere in your body. But by picking out the neurochemical thread and elaborating it, we put psychiatrists back in business with their other medical colleagues. In so doing, we pathologize and reduce what ought not be reduced.”
Dr. Sujatha Ramakrishna, a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, said in an email that she does agree with Maisel that a mental disorder diagnosis or label can actually do harm for many people.
“In my experience, many patients do feel stigmatized when they are told that they have a mental disorder,” Ramakrishna said. “They give up hope that they will ever become ‘normal,’ and they resign themselves to being ill. Eventually, that mindset becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
However, she thinks that antidepressants can still be useful in allowing some people to function.
“In many situations, such as severe depression, medication gives patients a needed boost in energy and motivation, which enables them to work on their underlying problems,” Ramakrishna said. “However, many patients take antidepressants without participating in psychotherapy, or otherwise making the changes in their lives that are needed to keep their symptoms from returning. Eventually the drugs wear off, leaving the patient right back where he/she started.”
Natasha Tracy, who was voted “second most influential depression writer online” by Sharecare.com, has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder type-II ultra-rapid-cycling, and disagrees with Maisel’s theory completely.
“Depression and unhappiness are two distinct states and to confuse the two is to do a disservice to both,” Tracy said. “Depression is not sadness (or unhappiness) at all. Depression is a cluster of symptoms both physical and psychological that go beyond sadness into a predominant state of being. Specifically, unhappiness tends to have a situational cause, while true pathological depression does not. For example, when a person dies an individual experiences very real and understandable unhappiness but this is due to a trigger.