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Excerpt from The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-first Century

Authors Jacqueline Olds, M.D., and Richard S. Schwartz, M.D. differentiate between depression and loneliness.

The elephant in the room is loneliness, even if the room is a psychiatrist’s office. As psychiatrists, we deal with depression every day; it is the bread and butter of our professional lives. But depression has become a catchall complaint for everyone from the stay-at-home mother who talks only to toddlers all day to the angry unemployed man who feels the world has handed him a raw deal; the diagnosis may be accurate, but the stories people tell to explain how they arrived at their unhappy conditions are often wrong. At this moment in history, it is fashionable to talk about a “chemical imbalance,” but that label is not as illuminating as many people assume. Every thought and every emotion involves changes in electrochemical signals in the brain; therefore, all states of feeling can be regarded as chemical imbalances. What gets lost in this perspective is the complicated relationship between depression and social isolation. What gets lost is the story of a mother who grows depressed simply because she has no adults to talk to, and the story of an unemployed man who feels completely left out because his entire social world had consisted of daily contact with his coworkers. … Back to Article

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