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The psychological concept of mental health through history had experienced a very interesting transition. In the past, people suffering from mental health issues were connected with mystical causes and associated with being controlled by evil forces. Later, their unique behavior caused by the mental conditions were associated with insanity. It took a lot of time, research, and very wise specialists for the psychological or psychiatric concepts we know today to achieve this form.

Although depression is a mental illness which has grown in popularity in today’s world, it isn’t new. People have been suffering from depression and anxiety since the beginning of the humankind. However, the civilizations of those times lacked the knowledge to be able to identify and treat these mental conditions as we do it today.

The historical understandings of depression

Depression was initially known as “melancholia” by ancient philosophers and healers. As it was not a physical wound that people could see and heal, it was very difficult at those times to understand what depression really was.

Thus, in ancient history, depression was seen to be caused by spiritual causes. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that the “melancholia”, as they called depression” was caused by demons who possessed the body and mind of the patient. Due to the mystical belief behind this mental condition, the way depression was treated at those times was very brutal and, obviously, inefficient. In order to cure a person suffering from depression, ancient civilizations practiced exorcism techniques which implied beating, drowning, or burning the patient, as well as isolation, and starvation. All these brutal practices often led to the death of the patients or to other severe health conditions which changed the life of the patient forever.   

Later, depression started to be seen as a biological and psychological illness by early Roman and Greek doctors. Treating depression started to be done in a more humane way and almost similar to the treatments used today. The patients were no longer perceived as being associated with mystical forces so they did not represent a danger to their peers anymore. The treatments used for depression included bloodletting, incipient forms of behavior therapy, healthy nutrition, and herbal remedies.

Depression in the 18th century

Although in the 18th century, the term “depression” was not common and did not have the psychological sense it has today, this century is considered to be the Age of Enlightenment.

The concept behind depression in the 18th century was that it is neither a mystical cause nor a psychological disease. Depression was seen sans a weakness in the temperament of the patients. As a result, people suffering from depression who were seen as weak compared to their peers used to be put in isolation and locked up.

Later in the Age of Enlightenment, depression used to be associated with aggression which resulted from an internal conflict of the patients. Thus, doctors who identify depression with aggressivity recommended treatments which included exercising, special diets, listening to music, and the use of drugs such as opioids.

During the Age of Enlightenment is also the time when the electroshock therapy was invented and used to treat mental illnesses of all types including depression. Although it was a brutal type of treatment, the doctors believed that it can calm the root of aggressivity in the patient making them docile.

Depression today

In contrast with the historical understandings of depression and the treatments used to cure the patients, nowadays, identifying and treating depression is completely different. Nowadays, depression is far from being associated with any of the concepts used in ancient times.

Medical specialists identify depression with a type of mental disorder which displays symptoms such as depressed mood, a feeling of worthlessness or guilt, insomnia, and lack of interest in activities which used to be important for the patient.

Unfortunately, medical specialists warn that depression is on the rise worldwide affecting people of all ages and both sexes. Nowadays, depression has become a public health concern because it has led to a rising number of suicidal attempts and deaths in the last recent years.

Treating depression today is completely different than it used to be in the past. The most popular treatment methods for depression include depression counseling, medication, meditation, and lifestyle changes. Psychotherapy for depression treatment is the most effective method to help patients feel better and prevent the symptoms from coming back.

Another efficient method used today to treat depression is self-help. Patients are encouraged to make some lifestyle changes to manage their condition on their own. Similar to the treatment in the 18th century, patients are encouraged to exercise to increase the release of endorphins in their brains, to have a healthy diet, and to practice natural stress relief methods such as meditation or yoga.

Depression has been affecting people since the beginning of the humankind. However, over the centuries, with the help of philosophers and medical specialists, depression has been understood as a mental condition which can be treated and kept under control.  Nowadays, patients who suffer from depression can get the right treatment they need to improve their mental wellbeing.