Investigating Social Etiology of Depression



As you know, the etiology of depression is a nuanced and complicated thing.  This post will require you to analyze the social and environmental etiological elements of the disorder.

Brown and Harris (1978) developed the vulnerability model after their research found that those with certain environmental “vulnerabilities” were more likely to suffer from depression.

Your job is to triangulate these findings with other research. 

Consider the following: 

After reading the above pieces, answer the following questions: 

  1. How does Sapolsky’s work support the anthropological findings of Dr. Luhrmann?
  2. What environmental causes of mental illness does Dr. Luhrmann allude to?
  3. How do both researchers findings support the vulnerability hypothesis?
  4. Does Sapolsky’s work support a social etiology of depression or biological or both?

Add Sapolsky to your “study guide to studies” for abnormal under whichever level of analysis you see fit.

Treatment for Depression Understood


As far as the IB is concerned, there are 4 main types of treatment for disorders: Biomedical, Individual, Group & Eclectic.

By far, the most popular treatment practiced today is the Eclectic Approach to treatment which is a combination of 2 or more of the above.

However there is growing research supporting alternative treatment forms such as sleep therapy, acupuncture, yoga, and exercise.  These treatments are the focus of much recent research:

You should be familiar with research supporting all the above approaches.  The learning activity below will aide you in this acquisition of knowledge:

Treatment Activity

Check out the AWESOME treatment project that 2 students did!

Rethinking Depression

Watch the incredibly informative and insightful ted talk linked below and then complete the case study!  We’ll discuss the ideas contained within such as:

  • Mind as different from brain
  • Depression as a holistic disorder, not brain based
  • Ineffectiveness of SSRI based treatments
  • “Eclectic Approaches” to treatment

After watching the above video, complete the case study assignment linked below:

Depression Case study TREATMENT

Next, read the article, “A new Focus on Depression”

And consider the following:

  1. Summarize Dr. Richard Friedman’s attitudes towards chemical treatments for anti-depression.
  2. Cite 2 arguments he makes why anti-depressant medication is not very effective
  3. What could be the way forward in regard to treating depression if not chemicals? Cite a piece of evidence Dr. Friedman uses as support.

The Anti Depressant Generation

Read this piece in the NYtimes on the prevalence of prescribed anti depressants and be ready to discuss!

Consider the following questions/statements:

  • What are the difficulties of treating depression amongst the “emerging adult” age group, 18-28?
  • Why are anti depressants so readily prescribed?
  • What neurotransmitter do many current antidepressants focus on and how do they work?
  • What institutional “pushes” exist towards a chemical treatment as opposed a therapeutic one?



Read this follow up article discussing the limitations of anti depressant medication as a treatment:

Heidegger And the Question Concerning Technology

After you’ve read Hiedegger’s Question Concerning Technology,

Heidegger believes we must understand the essence of technology in order to head down the right path of progress

think carefully and react to the questions/quotes below:


1. Why talk about the silver chalice?  What does that have to do with technology?

2.  Heidegger states, “what has the essence of technology to do with revealing? The answer–Everything.” What does he mean by this?

3.  Heidegger writes, “we are questioning concerning technology in order to bring to light our relationship to its essence.”  What is our current relationship to the essence of technology? What is YOUR current relationship to the essence of technology? 

4.  Heidegger writes, “What is dangerous is not technology…but rather there is the mystery of its essence. The essence of technology, as a destining of revealing, is the danger.”  This is a KEY sentence to understanding his whole essay and approach. What does he mean by this?  What is the essence of technology as you understand it?

5.  Consider a piece of culture…Her for example, or Fight Club, or even another work of literature/philosophy…Thoreau’s Walden comes to mind…how does the creator of that cultural artifact view the essence of technology? What is their point of view?

Heidegger states that, “man is uprooted” by technology… and that if man fails to understand and grapple with the essence of technicity than man will be separated from man’s true essence due to technology enframing our future.

While reading for IB psych, i came across this statement on depression in the New York Times, Yet there is reason to believe that mental illness is indeed increasing around the world, if only because urbanization is increasing. By 2010, for the first time in history, more than half the world’s population lived in cities.” 

I couldn’t help but think of Heidegger.  It’s a very strange and intriguing correlation indeed…the author of the NY times article cited above, Stanford Professor Dr. T.M. Luhrmann, implies a correlation between urbanization and mental illness. Urbanization necessitates separation from the earth and in my estimation that separation is exactly what Heidegger is discussing in, A question concerning technology. The phenomenon and correlation described by Ms. Luhrmann is exactly what he predicted. 

In fact my TOK people, read this article and lets discuss the connections between the information contained within and Heidegger’s Question Concerning Technology.