Tim Brinton

La tristesse est-elle une maladie ?

NEW YORK – La tristesse est l’une des rares émotions humaines reconnues par toutes les sociétés et à toutes les époques. Certains des récits épiques connus les plus anciens, comme L’ Iliade ou Gilgamesh, montrent la tristesse intense des protagonistes à la suite de la perte de proches camarades. Des études anthropologiques effectuées sur un grand nombre de sociétés montrent des émotions de tristesse qui se développent en réponse à une frustration amoureuse, une humiliation ou l’incapacité d’atteindre les objectifs culturels désirés.

Même les primates montrent des signes physiologiques et comportementaux suite à une perte qui ne peuvent être qu’assimilables à la tristesse chez les humains. L’évolution a sans aucun doute conçu les individus avec une propension à ressentir la tristesse à la suite de telles situations.

De même, les troubles mentaux dépressifs sont connus depuis aussi longtemps que l’écriture permet de les consigner. Au 5ème siècle avant J.-C., Hippocrate énonçait la première définition connue de la mélancolie (ce que nous appelons aujourd’hui « dépression ») comme trouble spécifique : “si la crainte ou la tristesse dure longtemps, c’est de la mélancolie ». Les symptômes qu’Hippocrate associait au trouble mélancolique, « perte d’appétit, abattement, insomnie, irritabilité, impatience », sont remarquablement similaires à ceux associés aujourd’hui à la définition moderne de l’épisode dépressif.

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