Home Book Reviews The New Mind-Body Science of Depression

The New Mind-Body Science of Depression


Written by Vladimir Maletic and Charles Raison

Reviewed by Monica Spafford

To better understand mental illness, psychiatrists have in the past looked at mental illness via a medical model. However, in The New Mind-Body Science of Depression, Vladimir Maletic and Charles Raison claim that we oversimplify major depression by looking at it as a discrete illness. As a result, we overlook the significance of research that doesn’t support that view. They suggest that the answers to many of our questions about major depression can be found by analyzing and integrating information we already have, but in the past ignored. They seek to map out how we came to view major depression as a discrete illness and provide evidence against that view. By doing so, they demonstrate that by sticking to misconceptions about mental illness, we are oblivious to important information that can provide some of the answers we’ve been searching for.

Maletic and Raison argue in favor of a psychoanalytic understanding of major depression, which presents major depression as a complex response to a failure to adapt to the environment. They supplement their argument with evidence that suggests major depression is not a discrete illness. For example, it violates Robins and Guze criteria for disease validity in that there is no biological diagnostic test for major depression; however, the lack of a biological marker for major depression merely proves that major depression is not a “discrete, unitary disease entity” (16). Maletic and Raison provide the more traditional explanation of depression, which maintains that major depression is caused by an interaction between genetic and environmental risk factors; however, they extend this explanation by arguing that the causal factors include more complex systems like the immune system, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and changes in brain structure and function.

At the end of the book, the authors apply the knowledge they espouse to two different case studies, demonstrating how an interdisciplinary approach can not only help us understand and explain a patient’s symptoms but also lead us down the proper treatment path. In The New Mind-Body Science of Depression, they demonstrate how integrating research from various disciplines proves we can’t take a strictly dichotomous approach to major depression and more importantly, displays the breadth of scientific knowledge we have acquired. Through this knowledge, we can explain some of the unexplainable aspects of major depression and set a path for future scientific innovation. This book is a must-read for even the most skeptical of mental health professionals because it will revolutionize their understanding of major depression and mental illness altogether and provide them with ample resources to better assist their patients.

Vladimir Maletic is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Greenville. He is also a consulting associate in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, at Duke University. In 2013, he was the program chair for the US Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress. Additionally, he has published two books and several articles.

Charles Raison is a professor at the School of Human Ecology and the Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the Director of Clinical and Translational Research for Usona Institute and is Interim Director of Research in Spiritual Health for Emory University Healthcare. He is internationally recognized for his research on major depression and other stress-related conditions. Additionally, he received the Pearl Memorial Award from the Human Biology Association.

Monica Spafford studies Applied Psychology at New York University and is set to graduate in May of 2018. She is a Research Assistant for the INSIGHTS into Children’s Temperament research study at NYU’s Institute of Human Development and Social Change testing the efficacy of the INSIGHTS program, an evidence-based intervention that works to support children’s social-emotional development and academic learning. In addition to working for the International Journal of Psychotherapy she writes book reviews for Somatic Psychotherapy Today.