History of Depression Throughout the Ages

The earliest treatments of depression can be traced back to the second century BC. Treatments were done by priests because society then believed it was a demonic disease. Victims received cruel treatments such as physical beating, locking into cells, drawing, or death. 

Centuries later, Hippocrates defined depression as a melancholic disease that escalated as the body fluids failed to balance. Because depressed people showed withdrawal symptoms, it was described as a disease for introverts. Today, the truth and treatment of depression are entirely different from how it was handled then. 

The earliest reports of depression

The first theories of depression are recorded in Mesopotamia manuscripts but it was majorly recorded as a mental illness that was major as a result of supernatural forces. According to the theories, a depressed person had most likely offended the gods, had been possessed by evil spirits or was under sin/curses. 

As a result, its treatments focused more on the spiritual being of the victims. The priests were invited to cure them and when they failed, the witch doctors took over the process. They were beaten, their heads were tied, some thrown into rivers, and others burned.  

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From spirits to body fluids

Hippocrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, changed the notions. He introduced the theory of body fluids that controlled an individual’s personality that he called humor. According to him, the phlegm, blood, black, and yellow bile had to be in a balanced state for a person to live a normal life free from depression. 

The melancholic individual had too much black bile, which made them have introverted personalities, have fluctuating emotions, and engage in deep thoughts. A victim’s level of depression depended on the degree of imbalances within the body fluids. 

When was depression discovered as a disorder/disease?

Emil Kraepelin, a psychiatrist from Germany, entirely changed the depression theory. He explained depression was a brain disorder that was brought about by both internal and external forces. According to him, these forces caused the victim to have exaggerated mood swings that were beyond the individual’s normal personality. Advanced study of psychology helped describe depression as a disease that was affecting millions of people around the world. Physicians began to keep records of the signs, and most people were recording a feeling of restlessness, nervousness, anxiety. 

The condition was described as nervous excitement and treatments involved advising to avoid alcohol, meat, and bad relationships. The 19th and 20th-century physicians correctly described depression as a disease that affected someone’s psychological order, behavior, and the general state of their mind. The disease was also identified as a disease not only affecting introverts but all other personalities and demographics. 

How treatment of depression and attitude to it changed over time

Depression treatment has changed over time since the earliest cases were discovered. The history of major depressive disorder can be traced back to the 16th century, although there were major cases before. During the early Mesopotamia civilization, treatments involved starving the victims, exorcism, tying them, locking others in jails, canning, or throwing them into rivers. The Greek physicians adopted better treatment methods. They prescribed vigorous exercise, some forms of music, eating certain foods, dipping the victims in the water, and exorcism. Treatments changed in the 19th and 20th centuries when various types of depression were discovered, such as student depression, teenage depression, and many other forms. Treatments used were psychological counseling, electroconvulsive therapy, and the use of medicine. Later, the use of antidepressants began.

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