Depression is not a Disease

In creating my own model of working with people presenting with depression, I have been very much influenced by first and foremost understanding my family of origin.

My mother studied medicine in Trinity College and qualified. She did her internship in Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and came back to Our Lady of Lourdes Orthopaedic Hospital in Kilkenny where she met and married my father who was a local business man.

Her whole life however was taken over by “Manic Depressive Psychosis”. Most or her time was either in a psychiatric institution having her head fried by electrodes, and then packing her of home with phials of medication that would fill the entire windowsill.

I could never understand how somebody as obviously intelligent as my mother could have lived her life in this way, trapped in the illusion of “Depression is a Disease Model”.

In my young adult life when I battled with depression and suicide ideology I refused to enter this illusion and fought to keep my independence from such an “insular model” of understanding depression.

The moment depression is classified as a disease the medical community and then the public seem to lose all clarity. Because it is now a disease and a cure is called for. It this way it becomes a defining straitjacket in which the depressed individual has to function.


Diseases do not have meanings therefore none are sought. Diseases should not be happening. Diseases separate the ill from the well. This classification defines the experience limiting it to a form which society relates to in prescribed ways. By placing it solely within the realm of imbalanced chemistry we distance it from problems of living, lack of resources and our human response which are the primary cause. We have been misled and the time has come to find our way back to a true understanding of depression.


In my “Minding the Body Mending the Mind” workshops I take a different view (all totally backed up by science) of this sick-brain model. Depression is not a disease but a legitimate emotional response to life’s difficulties and inseparable from individuality, race, colour, gender, creed, upbringing, belief systems, environments, relationships, socio economic factors, life events and coping skills.

I feel that to isolate a depressed human being from their thoughts, behaviours and from the workings of their inner world is a tragedy beyond words as it reduces them and the rest of us to a bag of chemicals (just like my mother). The sick brain model of depression is a hideous and terrifying concept as it turns us into cogs in a machine where if we find the going difficult and need to disengage. Our distress is silenced by an emotional painkiller and we are encouraged to carry on regardless.

I believe this is nothing short of chemically-induced slavery.

Causes & Treatment

While there is universal acknowledgement of the experience of depression itself, tragically there is a parting of the ways when it comes to the causes and treatments of this serious and disabling emotion. The greatest revolution in medicine came when the causes of many diseases and the reason for their spread was discovered to be bacterial and viral.

Based on this new knowledge more appropriate treatment approaches were pursued which until then would never have been thought irrelevant. The biggest killers of all time – leprosy, tuberculosis, syphilis, the plague, typhus, cholera, malaria – were all poorly understood until the agents and the mechanism by which they were spread were acknowledged.

In terms of science this medical paradigm was of the same monumental proportions as the consciousness change which came about in the scientific world when the flat earth view yielded to the round earth one.

Another paradigm shift is urgently needed now in the area of psychological medicine. Feelings, thoughts, beliefs, perceptions and interpretations need to be recognised as the creators of the chemical state we know as depression as surely as thoughts of injustice stimulate a state of anger, the perception of threat elicits fear and reminders of loss invite sadness.

The current dominant model in psychiatry reverses cause and effect placing the problem within the person’s brain matter or hardware. This makes it a disease of the brain, justifying the use of medication and electro convulsive therapy rather than locating the problem in the sufferers software programmes, their mind or consciousness. This is the equivalent of leaving the television in for repair if the programmes cease to be to your liking.


To approach the mind like a broken machine pathologises sufferers, turning them into damaged goods or victim of flawed chemistry and defective genes. It marginalises personal consciousness, viewing the unfathomable depths of human passion, individuality, creativity, curiosity, reason, intuition, will, compassion and spiritual insight as mere secretions of the brain, akin to the way the kidney secretes urine.

The theory of genetic base to depression has to be relegated to where it belongs – a theory that was ever only a hypothesis and to this day has not been proven.


The diagnosis of depression has reached epidemic proportion. Data from 2011 reveals that in Ireland between one in five and one in seven adults were prescribed anti-depressant medication at a cost of 100 million euro.

Anti-depressants are in essence psychic energisers which have a mood elevating and sometimes a euphoric effect. So do street drugs such as amphetamine, cocaine and heroin, all of whose effects are transient. The difference is they do not pretend to be medicinal or curative. The consequences of promoting emotional painkillers to be prescribed as if they were correcting some causative fault, as insulin does in diabetes, are far reaching and serious for medicine and real science.

Most insidious of all is that depression, if seen as a disease cannot be viewed as an indicator of an individual’s difficulty in dealing with the setbacks of life. Such difficulties require, not anaesthesia but corrective real life measures, with or without the support of psychotherapy. At least drug addicts and alcoholics are not deluded that their use of substances is permanently sorting out their problems.

The diminution of the central and primary role of consciousness and emotion in mental distress is fundamentally wrong. The pharmaceutical industry, in framing depression as a disease, has set sufferers apart from their humanity, and the entire spectrum of what it is to be human. Its doctrinal assertions, as to the value of their product, smacks of neo-fundamentalism. Having achieved cult status, it is now immune to challenge such is its wealth, power and its stranglehold on the medical profession.


So much has the status of the pharmaceutical industry come to resemble a religion that it is almost impossible now to name the obvious, without uproar breaking out among its disciplines.

No one disputes the role of chemicals in depression in the same way that no one disputes the role of adrenaline in anxiety. In depression serotonin amongst many other neuro-chemical transmitters is involved but only in a secondary role. This error in thinking has been created an enormous red herring, a fantastic delusion. Let us not be side tracked from the truth of the matter. It is irrelevant whether it is a serotonin deficiency or a serum marmalade deficiency which has been identified as having a role as a result rather than the cause of the problem.

The pharmaceutical industry has high jacked science, reversed cause and effect and idealises the neuro-chemical model of illness for profit motives, a marketing triumph. It has made “bad science” its own. It parades its “objective findings” from selectively chosen clinical trials and blatantly
withholds information such as dangerous side effects which do not suit its marketing objectives. (The manipulation of scientific information by the tobacco industry bears testament to this). And if this is not bad enough it actively promulgates the notion that anything that cannot be measured
does not exist. This is a position of enormous conceit – out the window goes consciousness and its infinite interconnectedness.

Real science knows its limitations, seeing itself as a tool, using means of gathering information according to the instruments used. True scientists like Albert Einstein showed awe and humility in the face of the unknown. Science will always be a product of consciousness and therefore cannot have dominance over it. Rather than consciousness being seen within science it is only logical that science has to be seen within consciousness.

Understanding of this nature is crucial as the pharmaceutical industry would have us believe that they know how it all works with God-like-status and that its latest product is the ultimate wonder drug.

The industry feeds on the gullibility of some doctors and the extreme vulnerability of sufferers, who in their eagerness to alleviate symptoms are prepared to ignore side effects, both long and short term. It also vigorously encourages the use of psychoactive medication in the young, who once started, will in all probability continue to “use” in different forms until adulthood. In this way a lifetime on medication begins with the mantra “keep taking the pills”.


If we take a look at what goes on inside the body it can be seen as the body electric (we are only energy, not chemicals) – the city that never sleeps. Its hundred plus trillion cells all intercommunicate and depend on each other according to a brilliantly orchestrated electromagnetic master plan, certainly not one of human design.

Every bodily function such as oxygenation, food absorption, detoxification and the generation of nerve impulses all happen at the cell wall by the movement of positive and negative particles across it. Each cell depends on life supporting supplies including oxygen, water glucose and protein.

Waste products, such as carbon dioxide and urine require disposal. Like a huge metropolis the body continues growing, replicating, defending and repairing itself. It does this whether we are in a coma, sleeping, dreaming or awake.

Consider the ingenuity of the immune system. T-cells move through the body scanning for and eliminating dangerous material. They contain the knowledge of what is “me” and what is “not me” then act accordingly. I am not awakened in the middle of the night by the chief T-cell seeking an
executive decision as to whether or not to destroy the alien. In the same way everything from the regulation of my heart beat to the repair of my cells in the event of damage is guided by an organising power outside of my intellectual control. This wisdom, when balance prevails, extends also to emotional healing.

Here’s the conundrum. Anti-depressants work for some and without apparent side effects. And so people will ask “what’s so wrong with taking a pill if it can make you feel better?”

Here’s why:

1. By ingesting anti-depressant medication you are interfering with your own body’s ability to create its own. The body’s natural pharmacopoeia goes out of production because the delicate interconnecting feedback loops have been tampered with.

2. When you stop taking the anti-depressants, the withdrawal symptoms you experience reflect not only the falling levels of drug in your blood which can be short term, but also the bodies longer term struggle to resume production of its own chemicals. In many cases after years of use the catch up can never be achieved, so guaranteeing dependency on what comes over the counter or more frighteningly, what can be bought over the internet. Is this not drug addiction?

3. The side effects of anti-depressants are “legion” from loss of your sex life, through loss of your life through suicide. If you have any doubts read the small print. Every cell in your body is taking a hit, because more than 95 per cent of the receptor sites for these drugs are located outside the central nervous system. Factor in altered reaction times and you become a danger to others while driving a car (Pilots are instantly grounded while under the influence of these drugs).

4. Falling victim to this “red herring” you will be less likely to seek out healing solutions, and put in place quality of life changes.

5. The sick brain model of depression reflects a frightening and insidious new phenomenon, taking hold in our society. We are being blind folded and drowned in a sea of pills. Those who try to arrest this development are actively resisted.

In the wise words of my dear old mentor Doctor Michael Corry R.I.P to whom I owe much of my wellness and knowledge:

“Medication only treats symptoms, not the cause.”