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PhD Thesis by Mette Rønberg: Experiences of Depression - Diagnosis, Resistance and Out-of-Tune Embodiment

This thesis is an examination of the complex experiences of what we call depression in everyday life, including embodied experiences of depression. It is also an examination of the multifaceted and ambiguous experiences of getting a depression diagnosis, and an exploration of the in-depth processes involved in learning to live under the description of depression.

Experiences of Depression - Diagnosis, Resistance and Out-of-Tune Embodiment

Research on depression is vast, ranging from work that deals with the phenomenology of depression based on mainly philosophical reasoning to macro sociological perspectives on multiple determinants to why so many people are haunted by depression in contemporary time. However, when it comes to qualitative research with a diagnostic perspective on depression based on first-person accounts, literature is sparse. The purpose of the thesis is to contribute to remedy this lack by investigating how adults understand, interpret and enact a diagnosis of depression in everyday life.

In the thesis, I follow the tradition of medical anthropology, in that I study the meanings people attach to experiences of depression as well as the macrosocial processes that impinge on it. I do this by paying attention to embodied, intersubjective, cultural and social dimensions of people’s lives, insofar as I understand experience, a central concept in the dissertation, as socially and culturally embedded.

The thesis is based on ethnographic fieldwork among adults diagnosed with depression in Denmark. The empirical material that works as the pivotal point in the thesis is more specifically generated from interviews providing first-person accounts of experiences of depression. Furthermore, the fieldwork consists of observing and participating in meetings in a volunteer-based support group hosted by a patients’ association, spending a week at a summer folk high school (“sommerhøjskole”) for people
diagnosed with depression, and observations in a depression group led by two psychotherapists at an outpatient psychiatric department. Finally, I have followed various depression fora on Facebook and the media coverage of depression. The fieldwork
has whirled me into a world of pain, sorrows, disappointments, personal and social failures and normative expectations that are difficult to meet, but also one of hope, valuable existential considerations, care and communities

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About Mette Rønberg

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