Exploring the lived experiences and meanings of the body during depression.
Depression is predicted to be one of the largest global health burdens in the future. As such, it is important to expand the current understanding of this disorder, so as to develop more effective treatments. While somatic symptoms are being increasingly recognised as important, one area that has received little attention, is that of the lived somatic experiences in depression and the psychological meanings behind these. This study aimed to contribute to this by utilising a qualitative approach. Interviews were conducted with individuals who had recovered from depression. These interviews focused on experiences at the time of depression, with an emphasis on day-to-day physical aspects. Thematic content analysis of participants' narratives revealed central themes of disconnection from the body, and a sense of lack and deprivation in relation to the body. These themes were evident in both emotional and physical experiences of depression, indicating a link between these two aspects of self. The psychological meanings behind physical experiences were explored utilising psychodynamic etiological theories of depression. These theories included Freud's theory of object loss, the theory of unmet oral dependency needs, as well as Winnicott's understanding of psyche-soma indwelling. Finally, the possibility of the body as symbolic of etiological processes in depression, was discussed in relation to existing psychodynamic literature on the mind-body relationship. The results of this research imply that there may be a relevant relationship between the experiences of the mind and the body in depression, and that physical experiences during depression may potentially be understood as symbolic of underlying etiological processes.