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Mad or sad? Situational Depression and 1 Question you Must ask Yourself.

Life has two rules:#1never quit #2Always remember rule#1 - unknown

‘I’ve been diagnosed with major depressive disorder’ 1 Lydia told me tearfully. I’ve been put on antidepressants.’

‘What are your symptoms’ I asked.

‘Well I feel depressed most of the time, sort of sad and empty. I cry easily and I’ve lost interest in the garden, which I used to love.

I’m not sleeping well yet I feel so tired all the time. Sometimes I think I’d be better off not being here.’

‘I’m sorry to hear that Lydia. How long has this been going on?’ I asked

‘Three months now’, said Lydia.

‘So four months ago you were ok?’


‘Well, what changed?’ I asked. ‘Did something happen?’

‘Yes’, said Lydia. ‘My husband died suddenly in his sleep.’

Depression or normal grief?

Isn’t it crazy that we are so quick to put labels on people? And once the label is there, it’s hard to get rid of.

It seemed to me that Lydia was simply going through a normal, if painful, grief reaction. Situational depression you might say is an appropriate response to major life changing events.

We often place our faith in doctors and psychiatrists when we experience uncomfortable feelings. But there is a danger in trying to control our natural range of emotions with labels and drugs, even if they are painful.

And frighteningly, the labels are often wrong.

Incredible mistakes

Back in the 1970s, a group of American academics headed up by a certain Dr. David Rosenhan 2 conducted an extraordinary experiment which was to send the profession of psychiatry into disarray.

Eight academics presented themselves at different psychiatric hospitals, claiming they could hear a voice in their head saying one single word. The word was ‘thud.’

Each research academic was admitted into the hospital. They acted completely normally after admission and expected to be discharged from psychiatric care within a few days. However, this did not happen. All of the researchers were subsequently diagnosed with a serious mental disorder and given powerful antipsychotic drugs.

They found it difficult to convince the psychiatrists about the ‘academic experiment’ they were involved in. The psychiatrists believed the story was simply further indication of insanity. It soon became clear that, to be discharged, they would have to agree with their mental health labels and comply with the treatment.

On completion of the experiment, Rosenham compiled and submitted an explosive paper but was accused of deception by the various hospitals, one of which challenged him to send more anonymous researchers to test their diagnostic system.

One month later, the hospital issued a statement saying they had identified 41 false patients, at which point Dr. Rosenhan revealed he had sent no one!

In an independent experiment 3 researchers sent patients to psychiatrists in different parts of the USA to see whether diagnosis was consistent.

The results were startling to say the least. It turned out that two independent psychiatrists gave differing diagnoses to the same patient from between 32% and 42% of the time.

The psychiatric profession was left reeling, pondering the question, how could these errors occur?

Before too long, the answer became clear. There were critical problems with the psychiatrists’ bible, the DSM. 4

The trouble with DSM

DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual which lists all ‘identified’ psychiatric disorders.

Trouble is, the number of mental disorder identified has risen from 106 in 1952 to 374 today.

UK statistics show that, circa1900, one in one thousand of the population was considered to be mentally ill. By the time DSM I was published in the 1950s, this had risen to one in one hundred.

Today, the official figures suggest one in four 5 of us are suffering from mental health problems at any one time.

One question

So, what is happening? Are we all getting sicker…….or are the professionals simply ‘lowering the bar’ of the normal range of human emotion?

The ‘medical model’ approach to mental health is simply resulting in a labelled, medicated and disempowered society.

If you are feeling down. Talk to someone you trust, someone who knows how to listen without jumping in with their own ‘stuff.’

Ask your self one question. What isn’t working in my life? If this is situational depression, then pills and labels are just not the answer. Taking responsibility for your own wellbeing, is.

Emotions often come in waves. We could all learn to be better at riding those waves. The highs and lows can feel like you’re navigating stormy seas at times but, with determination, we can all become better at sailors.






Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.