We've made tremendous strides in the way our culture views and treats depression. But as Jacqueline Novak, host of How To Weep In Public, points out, "Behaviors associated with depression happen to have some overlap with things that we hold romantic in the West, like being pensive or alone." And that's a big problem because "the model depressed person is not a poet," says Peter D. Kramer, MD, a therapist and author.
He explains that we have a wonderful — but sometimes problematic — history of romanticizing personality traits that we often also associate with depression. That includes things like being extra sensitive or perceptive.
"There's this sort of periodic embracing of melancholy, which is, of course, easier to do when you can't do anything about it," says Dr. Kramer. "The beauty of psychotherapy, and psychopharmacology...is that we really can alter things that human beings could never alter [before]."
Still, if you or your therapist gets caught up in those romanticized notions, that can delay your progress in therapy. Novak explains that she used to go into her sessions and "juice it up and make it quite philosophical," not exactly being honest about her life and feelings when not in therapy. This, she says, may have caused her therapists to overestimate how well she was doing. "This was a huge insight, and I changed my approach in therapy as a patient as a result," Novak says. "I actively brought down the charm and tried to speak from how I felt when I would be at home."
Check out the full video above to see the rest of Novak's enlightening conversation with Dr. Kramer.