Jacques Dayan : depressiveness and depression

There is a tendency in the systemic psychiatry of mental states to consider periods of sadness or persistent discouragement in the adolescent, or even just morose states, as signs of pathology. Following the theories of D. W. Winnicott, E. Gut, P. Fédida and Ph. Gutton, we develop the dynamic viewpoint according to which the depressive movement that is inherent to mental life plays a part in the regulation of psychical life. Set in motion by loss or abandonment, it fosters the redistribution of investments, a veritable « re-affectation ». The depressed adolescent subject needs to be accompanied, not immediately treated. Although the outcome of adolescent depressiveness is usually favorable, we will examine some possible harmful outcomes, calling depression in such cases « unproductive », « death depression » or « depression of unbinding ». Two emblematic pathological figures, mental anorexia in the young girl and addictive conducts, are seen as resistances to depressiveness, which is nonetheless a key part of a process of integration. These illustrate, following the example of the dismantling of thought in psychotic depressions – desperately expressed in artistic productions – the essential role that the body plays as a constituent and a means of psychical life.

revue Adolescence, 2011, T. 29 n°4, pp. 737-745.