Depression as unhomelike being-in-the-world? Phenomenology’s challenge to our understanding of illness
Fredrik Svenaeus has applied Heidegger’s concept of ‘being-in-the-world’ to health and illness. Health, Svenaeus contends, is a state of ‘homelike being-in-the-world’ characterised by being ‘balanced’ and ‘in-tune’ with the world. Illness, on the other hand, is a state of ‘unhomelike being-in-the-world’ characterised by being ‘off-balance’ and alienated from our own bodies. This paper applies the phenomenological concepts presented by Svenaeus to cases from a study of depression. In doing so, we show that while they can certainly enrich our understanding of depression, they can also reveal a clash between some societal definitions of illness and the individual’s definition. Phenomenological analysis may thus cause us to question what we mean, or think should be meant, by the terms ‘health’ and ‘illness’.