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The merits and demerits of the term new-type depression

Shinichi Suzuki
Professor, Faculty of Human Sciences, Waseda University

What is new-type depression?

The term new-type depression has been increasingly featured on TV shows and in newspapers. This term is commonly used to describe the condition of people, mostly young, who are usually in a depressed or apathetic mood but feel high when they have fun, and who often look selfish and are extra-punitive. They are willing to tell other people and physicians that they are sick. New-type depression is also called modern-type depression, escaping-type depression and immature-type depression. These terms give an impression on general people that a variety of new types of depression have emerged. However, these diseases called **-type depression do not exist as the subtypes of depression according to the current standard diagnosis criteria. In fact, the Japanese Society of Mood Disorders (a specialized academic society related to the diagnosis and treatment of depression) mentioned that modern-type (new-type) depression is a term created by the mass media without serious discussion from a psychiatric standpoint, and it has no evidence for treatment in the Treatment Guideline II: Major Depressive Disorder, 2012 Ver. 1 (NEWS Vol. 9, 2012, Japanese Society of Mood Disorders) published in 2012.

Therefore, these several new terms, including new-type depression, only describe the condition of young people who are seen by other people to have some troubles in adapting to the modern society, complain of a feeling of insufficiency and maintain a self-protective attitude for the pleasure of the moment. Of course, some of them meet the diagnosis criteria for some psychiatric diseases and require proper treatment, but some others just try to put off the steps that they have to overcome for maturation on the ground of other people’s or their own recognition that they are sick (which is not true).

This chaotic situation is not desirable from the perspective of promoting proper mental health. First, for some ten years or more, the government, medical institutions and private companies have made joint efforts to encourage early detection and the treatment of psychiatric diseases including depression and rehabilitation of psychiatric patients into society to resolve the current situation in Japan where 30,000 people kill themselves every year. However, the emergence of the term **-type depression has spread the impression that depression is just laziness and escape from hardships. This may discourage the efforts that have been made so far to build a foundation for mental health. Second, the primary purpose of mental health is to develop human strength and strong mentality to survive in a stressful society, and not to detect or treat diseases. However, with the emergence of a coined term (not only **-type depression, but also adult children, ** syndrome, etc.) for a certain psychopathological state, all life activities of a person showing (or feeling) some symptoms suggestive of that term will be attributed to the term and the various possibilities that he or she could have will be limited. As a result, the person will have no sufficient opportunities for maturation or adequate support from other people that he or she could have.

Concerns about young people

There must be some reasons why the coined term new-type depression, which was created by the mass media, is gathering much sympathy from people. Behind this, there might be concerns that with the image of young people who are immature and sensitive not having enough strength to overcome difficulties, and becoming enthusiastic about instant feedback such as games and Internet communication, but they are not interested in the tasks that require medium- or long-term patience and efforts. This fragility of young people is probably found in all ages. In the old days, however, there used to be a process of maturing while experiencing failures or difficulties due to this fragility within both individuals and the society. As the environment of the family, education and society surrounding the process of maturation from children to adults has changed, young people are now allowed (or connived at or neglected) to put off the time to become mature. I will leave the detailed discussion to social pathologists, but as a clinical psychologist, I would like to emphasize that the creation of a firm foundation for mental care does not contradict the development of human strength to survive in the modern society. The process of helping young people of the modern age grow into mature adults involves teaching them the importance of taking responsibility for what they do with a resolute attitude, while showing them specific goals and leading them warmly, rather than pushing them away or treating them with great caution. As individualism and IT communication have been disseminated in the society and superficial human relations are preferred, it is difficult to form harsh but warm, deep human relations that help us develop human strength. As a result, if someone is in poor physical or mental condition, the signs are often overlooked. Even if these signs are noticed, there are not a few cases that the person and those around him or her are lost in a maze, not knowing what they should do, because the deep human relations that serve as a foundation to help him or her return to the society are vulnerable. This confusion of young people and those around them is probably the identity of the new-type depression.

We might need to utilize the coined term new-type depression as a chance to rethink about the fragility of young people, and develop specific measures to increase human strength, rather than recognizing it as a convenient word to worry about the fixed image of young people.

Shinichi Suzuki
Professor, Faculty of Human Sciences, Waseda University

[Profile]

He worked as a psychologist at Tokyo Women’s Medical University and on Department of Psychosomatic Medicine at Ayase Ekimae Clinic, full-time lecturer on Faculty of Health and Welfare Science at Okayama Prefectural University and assistant professor at Training and Research Center for Clinical Psychology, Graduate School of Education, Hiroshima University before taking up his current position in 2007 (also working as a visiting research fellow at National Institute of Mental Health, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, and psychologist at Warakukai Akasaka Clinic).

Executive Director, Japanese Association of Behavior Therapy
Director, Japanese Association for Cognitive Therapy
Director, Japanese Society of Behavioral Medicine
Delegate, The Japanese Association of Stress Science
Director, Japanese Society of Psychosomatic Cardiology, etc.

Area of specialization: cognitive behavioral therapy, behavioral medicine, medical psychology, vocational mental health
His recent research and practice activities include the establishment of mental health systems in the workplace and support for the reinstatement of workers after sick leave for depression, and mental care of patients with severe physical diseases such as cancer and cardiac disease and the establishment of mental care systems for these patients.

His books include Technical guide to cognitive behavioral therapy for practitioners [Jissenka no tame no ninchi kodo ryoho tekunikku gaido], New twist to medical psychology [Iryo shinrigaku no shin tenkai], Practice manual of stress management at school, workplace or local community [Gakko, shokuba, chiiki ni okeru sutoresu manejimento jissen manyuaru] (all of the above published by Kitaohji Shobo), Practice manual for group cognitive behavioral therapy for depression [Utsubyo no shudan ninchi kodo ryoho jissen manyuaru], Behavioral activation therapy for depression [Utsubyo no kodo kasseika ryoho] (all of the above published by Nippon Hyoron Sha), Social anxiety disorder [shako fuan shogai] (Kongo Shuppan) and Psychotherapy for chronic depression [Mansei utsubyo no seisin ryoho] (Igaku-Shoin).