Making sense of melancholy: sub-categorisation and the perceived risk of future depression

/ 2012 | Health, Risk & Society, 14 (2): 171-189. / By Tamara Kayali Browne and Furhan Iqbal /


This paper investigates the relationship between an individual’s experience of depression and her conceptualisation of its role in her life and sense of identity. Based on a mixed methods study involving interviews with 37 women diagnosed with unipolar or bipolar depression, the findings indicate that women who considered most of their episodes to have been triggered by events or circumstances in their lives were more likely to believe that their depression could in future be overcome, whereas those who did not consider the majority of their episodes to have been triggered were more likely to believe their depression to be chronic. Thus, women who participated in the study perceived the risk that they might never be able to overcome depression differently according to whether they believed most of their depressive episodes could be categorised as having been triggered or not. The reasons behind their beliefs are explored. Implications for the traditional medical exogenous–endogenous (reactive–endogenous) distinction are discussed.

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