In the Douglas Adams novel ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ humanity invests 7.5million years in finding ‘the answer to life, the universe and everything’. A great computer, Deep Mind, is set the task of crunching the numbers and analysing the data in order to come to its solution. The answer? 42. It’s a very funny joke, and one that is incredibly prescient given how many aspects of life today are governed by data and computers. Like in ‘Hitchhikers’, often an answer with no context is useless, and in some cases harmful.
Diagnosing Depression, anxiety and addiction
This comes to mind because there has been an increase in recent years in diagnosing mental health problems and labelling them so as to better treat them. At our south Dublin psychotherapy clinic people often present with diagnoses of depression, anxiety, addiction, ADHD and any number of other conditions that are identified with increasing frequency by GPs or other medical professionals. An understandable and well intentioned development for sure, but something is lost if we don’t put as much emphasis on the context in which we understand the answer provided by a diagnosis. Often, it is the wrong question being asked, namely what is wrong with this person? By focusing on what is ‘wrong’, we can often lose sight of why something may be amiss in the first place.
The causes of sadness and depression
It is rare for a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression to be explained by a physical cause alone, a ‘chemical imbalance’ or hormone problems. People are affected by life, their relationships and the way they exist in the world, how they enjoy themselves and what their desire is. By ignoring much of this to focus on the ‘what’, on the symptom or manifestation of someone’s unhappiness or sadness, we run the risk of ending up like the characters in ‘Hitchhikers’ who have an answer but no idea what the question is.
Medicating mental health problems
Unfortunately today so often that answer is medication. Health services are stretched and GPs and mental health practitioners may have to attend to dozens of patients on a daily basis. Whilst medication has its place in softening the very real distress caused by mental health issues, it will do little to answer the question of why?
Psychotherapy, counselling and psychoanalysis
A longer course of psychotherapy or counselling has been shown to bring about real and lasting change whilst addressing this question of ‘why?’. Psychoanalysis, when compared to other, shorter form treatments, is effective over a much longer period of time, with less chance of relapse into old, depressive or damaging thoughts.
The long term benefits of psychotherapy
Of course, this requires a commitment of time to the therapy. Initially this can be off putting, but in seeking real and long lasting improvements to how we feel, investing in our mental health can be one of the wisest decisions we can make.
To learn more about psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, or any of our services, please contact us.