Depression is a “Storm” not a Lowering of Spirit: The Experience and Psychology of the Severe Depressive State

  • Martin M. KatzEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Psychology book series (BRIEFSPSYCHOL)


While analyzing the depressed state scientifically, it is useful to compare the empirical evidence with the experience as described by artist-writers who have been afflicted with the disorder. The artists question the appropriateness of the term “depression” to label the state. William Styron, e.g., experienced it as a “storm,” much more turbulent emotionally than the depressed, semi-paralytic quality described in the clinical literature. Opposing perspectives on its causes held by Europeans and Americans are reviewed, as is the research on its phenomenology prior to the introduction of the antidepressants. The treatments espoused by biological or psychological proponents were different, neither very successful. Following the drugs, new studies of the disorder found more evidence for the focal roles of anxiety and hostility in its composition, thus, supportive of the artists’ emphasis on turmoil and conflict of emotions in the basic experience. Clearly, measuring specific behaviors and feelings associated with the disorder has been neglected in the decades-long neurobiological analyses of drug actions. To advance understanding of basic mechanisms, a more refined behavioral approach and methodology was applied in concert with neurochemical analyses. That behavioral approach is described in the next chapter.


Phenomenonology Psychological experience Conflicted emotions Cognitive Interpersonal theories Hostility European theory 


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© The Author(s) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center at San Antonio, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Texas Health ScienceBethesdamUSA

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