Prof touts therapy for depression

by Yelena Kibasova

University psychiatry professor Michael Browne has what some might consider a unique perspective on depression treatment.

Depression is defined as a medical disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, despair, emptiness and lack of pleasure, according to the National Mental Health Information Center.

Browne’s view of depression is slightly different. He said he has a “rare” view on the proper way to treat the disorder.

“Depression is not a medical problem,” he said. “It comes about because of problems we face in our life and how we handle those problems.”

Browne said people develop trust and self-esteem through positive relationships. Negative relationships lead to anxiety.

“Depression is the result of impaired relationships that results in low self-esteem and a lack of trust,” he said.

Browne said antidepressants cannot fix emotional problems and that talk therapy is the best approach.

“If you sit down with a person who is suffering from that chronic depression, what you find out when you talk to those people is that the causes are there,” Browne said.

“Antidepressants are very powerful drugs, but they don’t do very much to relieve depression and help people to live better lives,” Browne said.

Browne said antidepressants numb the body and do not deal with the actual problem.

“Our emotions don’t lie to us,” he said. “When we’re feeling sad, it is for a reason. We need to find what the reason is and solve it.

“So often people who are depressed get treated as if their emotions are lying… and I think that is really a tremendous mistake,” he said.

Browne said he knows people disagree with his perspective.

Charles Schulz, head of the department of psychiatry, said, “Most studies that have assessed both talking therapies and medications find that when both are used together, the best outcomes are achieved.”

He said antidepressants are not numbing and instead “assist in correcting neurotransmission.”

The field of psychiatry and psychology is quite broad and there are many different opinions of what works, Schulz said.

Alan Sroufe, the William Harris professor of child psychology at the Institute of Child Development, said antidepressants are overused.

“We rely on medication far too heavily for treating problems, and at times medications have notable side effects,” Sroufe said in an e-mail. “But the use of medication remains an individual medical decision.”

Sroufe said, “Depression is a complex, heterogeneous problem. The same causes do not apply to everyone. It is a drastic oversimplification to think of it as a purely medical problem.”

Browne has written and presented papers of his analysis and is working on a paper discussing the causes of depression.