Melancholy is not poetic or inspiring. It is a formless emptiness, an aspiration of yesterday that completely blurs the present. Few states plunge us into such features of tranquility, fatigue and psychological exhaustion as to form a very characteristic subtype of depression that can, in many cases, be quite serious.
Victor Hugo said that melancholy is the happiness of being sad. Stendhal was of the opinion that those who devoted themselves to writing, painting, or poetry were people who were subject to melancholy. As we can see, this emotional state has always been linked to the natural drive that connects human beings to creativity. Who connects him to this virtuoso and profound side of his being allowing him to make a beneficial use of sadness.
"Melancholy is a mist filled with sadness that covers everything."
The romantics of the time thought that without melancholy, the ink was over. However, our artists of the time forgot the fact that the Greeks used this term to diagnose what we know today as depression. Hippocrates suggested that melancholy was an excess of black bile, the one that caused the person to be sad, scared, unmotivated, and so on.
Later, Sigmund Freud began to deepen this idea to give him an authentic clinical basis. Melancholy is not just a sadness. It is not a driving state capable of bringing out our muses. Melancholy is like the cinematic metaphor left by Lars Von Trier in his famous film. A planet called depression that at one time or another can collide with us to destroy everything.
When melancholy toque at our door
We are all likely to experience sadness at some point. Everyone can feel this emptiness that is nostalgic and where memories of yesterday are introduced, making us see the present with a halo of sorrow. Generally, these states are punctual and limited in time. Psychologists remind us that although sadness is often translated by a halo effect (it covers everything), it can allow other affects, other thoughts, and other motivations to surface.
When melancholy settles in our lives, it leaves no room for anything else. The person stops experiencing pleasure, curiosity, interest … Silber, Rey, Savard and Post (1980) define the melancholic state as "emotional inaccessibility". In fact, the person has a clear impossibility to experience any type of affect and even sadness. In fact, one faces a complete emotional alteration.
On the other hand, it is worth mentioning an even more important fact. In the new edition of the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), melancholia appears to be described as a subtype of major depression. Those who do not agree with this classification prefer to see it as an assimilable and separable emotional disorder to depression. Whatever it is, we must bear in mind that we are dealing with a depressive disorder with rather clear features. Let's introduce them by following.
What symptoms does melancholia present?
As we mentioned above, the main characteristic of a melancholy person is the inability to experience the affect. There is no profit, no interest, no emotion associated with sadness and which could provoke tears or the expression of malaise. Melancholy is quietness, emptiness and permanent mist that the person can not define.
- We also highlights psychomotor retardation, difficulty in reasoning, permanent physical and mental exhaustion.
- Another common feature is the inability to explain the state, to connect with the inner reality and to be able to communicate by putting words on the situation, on the feeling.
Finally, a fact that generally differentiates melancholy depression from other depressions is the impossibility of thinking. In other depressive disorders, patients experience a large number of nervous, obsessive or exhausting thoughts that sometimes lead to suicidal ideation. In melancholy, this does not happen.
In the words of the psychologist Giovanni Stanghellini "If the major depression is a shipwreck with spectator, the melancholy is comparable to a shipwreck without spectator ". In fact, if the depressive tries to find a meaning for his depression, the melancholy person is shut up on her, sees and feels nothing.
Melancholy and the therapeutic approach
The treatment that a melancholy person will receive will depend basically on his diagnosis. As we know, there is no one type of depression. When melancholy appears as a descriptive category, many things can happen. The first is that we are dealing with a patient suffering from major depression, bipolar melancholic depression, Cotard syndrome or delusional or non-delusional melancholy.
Everything will depend on the valuation given by professionals and the particular case of the patient. In most cases, the root of this clinical condition is biological. People respond very well to pharmacological treatments. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is also a strategy that translates good results.
Finally, and in the most severe cases, such as deep depressions, it will be necessary to resort to psychiatric treatment and closer and constant follow-up. In all cases, we are facing a psychological condition that affects 2% of the population and which generally responds well to the therapeutic approaches we currently have.