Depression is defined in diagnostic literature as a mood disorder characterized by depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, significant changes in weight, insomnia or hypersomnia, psychomotor agitation or retardation, fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal ideation and/or attempts. Research suggests a link between depressed mood and monoamine depletion, elevated cortisol, and inflammation, but existing laboratory evidence is inconclusive. Current treatments for depression include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and lifestyle changes; however, more severe forms of the disorder can require other medication, sometimes in combination with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Disagreement persists over how to define and classify depression, in part due to its ambivalent relationship to melancholia, which has existed as a medical concept in different forms since antiquity. Melancholia was reconfigured in 19th-century medicine from traditional melancholy madness into a modern mood disorder. In the early 20th century, melancholia gradually fell out of use as a diagnostic term with the introduction of manic-depressive insanity and unipolar depression. Following the publication of DSM-III in 1980 and the introduction of SSRIs a few years later, major depressive disorder became ubiquitous. Consumption of antidepressants have continued to rise year after year, and the World Health Organization notes depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide. At present, internationally recognized systems of classification favor a single category for depressive illness (alongside a circular mood disorder, bipolar I and II), but this view is challenged by clinicians and researchers who argue for the reinstatement of melancholia as a separate and distinct mood disorder with marked somatic and psychotic features.
Various self-concepts constitute major keywords in both psychological science and liberal political discourse. They have been central to psychology’s public-facing, policy-oriented role in the United States, dating back to the mid-19th century. Psychologists’ articulations of self-concept include an understanding of the individual, society, and the interventions needed to augment them both. Psychologists’ early enthusiasm for self-esteem has given way to competing concepts of the individual, namely self-regulation and self-control. Self-esteem in a modern sense coalesced out of the deprivation of the Great Depression and the political crises it provoked. The fate of self-esteem became tied to the capacities of the liberal welfare state to improve the psychic capacities of its citizens, in order to render them both more equal under the law and more productive in their daily existence. Western democracies, especially the United States, hit peak self-esteem in early 1990s. Since then, psychologists lost faith in the capacity of giving away self-worth to improve society. Instead, psychologists in the 21st century preached a neo-Victorian gospel of self-reliance. At the very historical juncture when social mobility became more difficult, when inherited social inequality became more entrenched, psychologists abandoned their Keynesian model of human capital and embraced its neoliberal counterpart.
This historical overview of the concepts of harmony in Chinese culture situates the topic in the ecological context of a strong-ties society that fosters a type of rationality that privileges symmetry over asymmetry. Analysis of the discourse of harmony focuses on the texts of two native schools of thought—Confucianism and Taoism—and briefly mentions Buddhism (a religion imported from India). The modern history of harmony has just begun but is already portentous. The turbulent course of China’s rapid modernization suggests the possibility that as China transitions from a strong-ties society to the weak-ties global market, harmony may be encountering, for the first time, contradictions that defy harmonization. Whatever the future holds for the Chinese legacy of harmony, its contribution to the happiness and well-being of the individuals in their intimate relationship with self and others is likely to remain unchallenged.