SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 25, 2013

Book Notes: Hamilton psychiatrist helps people handle depression

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — There are a lot of people who, without being seriously depressed, suffer more than they should from depression.

“A lot of people are settling, thinking this is as good as it can be,” said Jefferson Prince, a psychiatrist who lives in Hamilton and recently published “Almost Depressed.” “But you don’t have to have a raging case of depression to be seriously and significantly impacted.”

The symptoms of “garden variety” depression can go on for years and include indecisiveness, as well as a lack of enjoyment in relationships, play and work.

“It used to be called dysthymia, now it’s called persistent depressive disorder,” Prince said. “It can make people more prone to addictive kinds of behaviors.”

Prince, who teaches at Harvard Medical School and directs child psychiatry at North Shore Medical Center in Salem, wrote “Almost Depressed” with Harvard psychologist Shelly Carson.

The book was written for readers 18 and older and draws on “a ton of different studies,” but it is written for the layperson.

It is part of a series of books, “The Almost Effect,” which were written by Harvard Medical School faculty and promote self-healing.

“None of us can lift ourselves up by our bootstraps, but there’s a lot we can do to improve our relationships,” Prince said. “People’s best tool is their attention and learning to notice what’s going on inside of them.”

We create obstacles to such insights when we draw premature conclusions about our emotions, Prince said.

“My knowing is getting in the way of my understanding,” he said. “What we’re suggesting is, there’s other things to notice. The first thing people can connect with is their own awareness.”

Prince believes the book he and Carson have written addresses a serious need in our culture.

“Never have people felt so lonely and isolated,” Prince said. “But it’s not a disease; it’s a condition. People can promote and cultivate their own humanity. By taking care of themselves, they improve the things that are important to them.”