One in 5 Americans suffer from depression, with the age of onset getting younger and first episodes becoming more severe. Like heart disease, depression is caused by a complex mix of factors, including genetics, biochemistry and environment. Despite the increasing numbers pointing to an epidemic, however, no surefire cure exists, and much about the condition is misunderstood. In Undoing Depression, Richard O’Connor, a psychotherapist and family counselor, argues that the most common approaches to treating depression overlook a crucial element: our own habits. O’Connor analyzes the pros and cons of various traditional approaches for treating depression, and argues that paring the most effective of these with self-help strategies can produce the best results.
First published in 1997 and updated in 2010, Undoing Depression remains relevant today. O’Connor writes that he is pleased that his original text has withstood the test of time, but he is also dismayed by the lack of meaningful progress in achieving a deeper understanding of the drivers behind depression and developing more effective treatments. That said, there have been promising breakthroughs since the book was first published. Neuroscientists confirmed O’Connor’s original hypothesis, for example, that old neural pathways are replaced by new connections when we put an end to harmful habits and replace them with healthy ones. In other words, by focusing on and practicing new coping skills, we can change our brains. “Thus,” O’Connor writes, “it’s even more imperative that people with depression be encouraged and enabled to take effective action for themselves.”