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Book and Media Reviews
June 22 2011

The Weariness of the Self: Diagnosing the History of Depression in the Contemporary Age

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Department of Psychiatry, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Tiverton, Rhode Island (Walter_Brown@brown.edu).

JAMA. 2011;305(24):2578-2580. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.874

In the United States and other developed countries, depression is the mental affliction du jour and it has been so for several decades. The extraordinary grip that this diagnostic term has on the public's mind and the extent to which it sways the thinking of health professionals is not simply a result of the high prevalence of the condition or of the morbidity and mortality associated with it. Depression is certainly among the most prevalent psychiatric conditions—perhaps the most prevalent—but other mental disorders that occur with similar frequency (eg, social phobia) get nowhere near the equivalent attention. Although serious depression does come with significant morbidity and mortality, many patients who meet the contemporary diagnostic criteria for depression—major depressive disorder—have a mild variant of the condition that often creates little impairment and is self-limiting.1,2

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