Early History of Depression
Majid Ali, M.D.
Depression is not a new disorder. It was called
melancholy in older english literature. Below is a
short account of the history of depression.
* The Ebers papyrus appear to refer to emotional
distress of the heart or mind, which has been
interpreted as sadness or depression.
* The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), composed and
compiled between the 12th and 2nd centuries BC, have
been interpreted as describing mood disorders
* In Ancient Greece, disease was thought due to
an imbalance in the four basic bodily fluids, or
humors. Personality types were similarly thought to
be determined by the dominant humor in a particular
* Hippocratic Aphorisms: "fears and
despondencies, if they last a long time" as being
symptomatic of the ailment.
* Aristotle: melancholia had been associated with
men of learning and intellectual brilliance, a
hazard of contemplation and creativity.
* Revived by the ancient Rome by Galen.
Melancholia was a far broader concept than today's
* Arabs: Ishaq ibn Imran (d. 908) combined the
concepts of melancholia and phrenitis.
* The Canon of Medicine (1020s), Avicenna
described melancholia as a depressive type of mood
disorder in which the person may become suspicious
and develop certain types of phobias.
Avicenna's Canon of Medicine became the standard of
medical thinking in Europe together with works by
Hippocrates and Galen.
* 19th century: became more associated with
* 20th century: Moral and spiritual
theories of depression advanced by philosophers
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