• Ancient Egyptians were the first recorded culture to diagnose and try to treat depression, but they called it a "dryness of the heart" or a "kneeling of the mind."

    Ancient Greeks and Melancholy

    Hippocrates, called the "father of medicine," referred to depression as "melancholy'', or black bile. Democritus, a contemporary of Hippocrates, also wrote about the nature of melancholy in his History of Melancholy in 4th century B.C.

    The Anatomy of Melancholy

    The Anatomy of Melancholy, published in 1621 by Robert Burton, further defined Melancholy and discussed its causes, symptoms and cure. Melancholia and Melancholy were used interchangeably until the mid 19th century.


    The word "depression" comes from a Latin word that means to "press down." According to a British Journal of Psychiatry article on Melancholy and Depression, one of the first uses of the word was by Richard Baker in his Chronicle of the Kings of England, published in 1665, to refer to someone suffering a "great depression of spirit."

    Psychiatric Depression

    According to the British Journal of Psychiatry, the term "depression" was first used in a psychiatric sense in 1856 by Louis Delasiauve, a French psychiatrist. The term came into use in medical dictionaries around 1860, referring to a physical and spiritual lowering of emotions and function.

    Depressive States

    German psychiatrist, Emil Kraepelin referred to melancholia as a depressive state in the late 19th century; he also used "manic depressive" to describe severe depression, according to the British Journal of Psychiatry.

    Major Depressive Disorder

    Clinicians from the New York State Psychiatric Institute coined the term "major depressive disorder" in a paper on Research Diagnostic Criteria in 1975.

    Source: Medicine in Ancient Egypt - Depression University of Oregon - notes on depression by Gerard Saucier, PhD British Journal of Psychiatry - Melancholy and Depression

    More Information: Research Diagnostic Criteria Robert Burton and The Anatomy of Melancholy

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