Book Review

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One of the reasons that mental illness, and perhaps most especially depression, is so difficult to fight against is that it saps the person’s very will to fight, as Yapko argues. While anyone would be frightened to be diagnosed with cancer, of course, for most people that initial fear is replaced (or at least supplemented)  by anger, by a desire to defeat the disease that is trying to defeat one. Depression robs one of the ability to feel that necessary anger.

Moreover, mental illnesses like depression can be very difficult to diagnose or to recognize: There is no serum to test for when looking for depression. In some real, if rather vague way, mental health is simply the absence of mental disorders. And in the reverse, we define mental illness as the absence of mental health. The circularity of this definition is certainly confusing, but it reflects the real confusion over the range of what may be considered to be mentally “normal”.

As Styron illuminates in his work, there is a wide range of affective states that most people consider to lie within the realm of mental health, and the borders of these states are so fuzzy that it is often difficult for people to know when they have crossed beyond them. Styron found himself one day traveling to Paris and falling into darkness, but how he come so close to this abyss is s journey that he never entirely understands.

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