, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 144–160 | Cite as

Making sense of the evolving nature of depression narratives and their inherent conflicts

  • Damien RidgeEmail author
Original Article


Originally a psychiatric diagnosis fashioned by Western psychiatry in the twentieth century, depression evolved to encompass varying lineages of discourse and care. This article elucidates some of the current challenges—as well as emerging discourses—influencing the category of depression. Depression-like experiences are shaped by (at times conflicting) subjectivities, claims to knowledge, material realities, social contexts and access to resources. With no unified understanding of the category of ‘depression’ available, lay people, social scientists and neuroscientists, GPs, psychiatrists, talking therapists and pharmaceutical companies all attempt to shape narratives of depression. The current paper focuses on patient narratives about depression—in the context of these wider debates—to better elucidate the ways in which depression discourses are publicly developing along varying lines. In conclusion, the paper suggests that we could better conceptualise the resulting ‘depression(s)’ with concepts such as ‘society of mind’ and notions of subjectivity unbounded by individuals.


Depression Narrative Patient experience Psychiatry 



I would like to sincerely thank all those participants who shared with us their intimate stories so generously (see for more details of credits); the reviewers for their thought-provoking commentary; and Renata Kokanovic and the editors for their patience and encouragement. I would like to thank Alex Broom and Volker Scheid, discussions and exchanges with whom helped to shape the original paper, along with Renata Kokanovic and the organisers of the excellent Broken Narratives and the Lived Body conference held at the Monash Prato Centre in Italy in 2016, where this paper was first presented. The feedback from the anonymous reviewers was valuable in further developing the arguments in the paper, and critical readings of the manuscript by Petra Makela and Alison Fixsen helped to clarify the final paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WestminsterLondonUK

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