(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Darkness Visible illustrates the controversies at the heart of treating depression. On the one hand, many of those afflicted do not want to be treated with drugs, believing that the root of their illness is not necessarily in their bodies but either in the world in which they live or in their spirit or mind. People in this camp often seek psychotherapy for treatment. On the other hand, a large part of the medical community itself staunchly defends the use of pharmaceuticals, arguing that depression is a result of faulty brain chemistry and that drugs are the most effective form of treatment for sufferers. Styron himself weighs both of these positions, writing:

The intense and sometimes comically strident factionalism that exists in present-day psychiatry—the schism between the believers in psychotherapy and the adherents of pharmacology—resembles the medical quarrels of the eighteenth century (to bleed or not to bleed) and almost defines in itself the inexplicable nature of depression and the difficulty of its treatment.

Styron never resolves the conflict for himself, partaking of both psychotherapy and antidepressants at various points. Although he ‘‘conquers’’ the disease by the end of his story, his claim that ‘‘the disease of depression remains a great mystery’’ remains his final word on depression. Depression, for Styron, is as much an affliction of the soul as...

(The entire section is 520 words.)