Melancholia and Depression: the same but different
some of these posts will be about work I’ve already done over the summer as it was only yesterday the, now painfully obvious, idea of having a blog materialised.
So far I’ve been interested in the link between melancholia in the early modern period and depression today, and our mutual attempts to overcome mental illness through diet. Melancholia and depression can broadly be compared. There are a lot of similar symptoms such as sadness, anxiety, fear, despondency, restless energy, oversensitivity and manic highs to name a few. However, historians have to be really careful about presuming an illness today is the same one in the past. Obviously, and unfortunately (from a research perspective), we can’t go back in time to check.
What we do know is that melancholia was very common in the seventeenth-century and today 8-12% of the population experiences depression in any year. We also know that despite advances in medicine bringing us chemical anti-depressants like Prozac, many people still use herbal remedies and diet to deal with their mental illness. Our continuing experience of mental illness, and our attempts to self-remedy, link us with people from the 1600s.