Identifying Depression

There has been a lot of talk lately on some recent research out of Chicago that suggests that depression can be detected using a blood test. More specifically, researchers have published their findings that suggest that certain genetic markers differ between individuals that meet the researchers’ criteria for major depressive disorder and those that do not. Furthermore, they concluded that markers could also help to delineate whether cognitive behavioural therapy would be helpful for a given person, and could potentially be used to help determine whether treatment is working throughout the treatment process.

These findings have been met with mixed reactions.

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What is Normal?

Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals have pretty well cornered the market on abnormal. It has been defined and codified in a dizzying number of ways and indeed, each edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published between 1952 and 2014 has added dozens of new mental health diagnoses. These diagnostic labels are used to categorize symptoms that are outside the bounds of normal human affect, cognition, and behaviour and there is no doubt that these different ways of classifying abnormality carry immense weight for individuals and society.

But what does normal*  look like? Is it the absence of mental illness? Is it perfect mental health? Is it feeling great all the time, or merely good enough? For that matter what is abnormal? What separates normal states of distress from mental health disorders? 

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