Grammarians tell us that even our verbs have a “mood,” and these moods clue us into people’s disposition toward their topic. The three moods in English are the indicative, the imperative, and the subjunctive. It is interesting to look at the mood (in the grammatical sense) of “mood disorders” (in the psychiatric sense), because when people talk about psychiatric mood disorders—like depression—the first two grammatical moods are very common. But the last is quite rare. The indicative is the matter-of-fact mood of description and explanation. Examples include “depression is a malfunctioning limbic diencephalic system” or “depression is the result of anger turned inward.” The imperative mood is the stern request or command: “Take your medicine!” or “You should see a shrink!” The subjunctive mood, by contrast, infrequently shows up. This mood indicates a much more whimsical disposition. It is used to express wishes, possibilities,...
Melancholia in the Subjunctive Mood
Bradley Lewis, M.D., Ph.D., is an associate professor at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and a practicing psychiatrist. He has interdisciplinary training in humanities and psychiatry, and his recent books are Narrative Psychiatry: How Stories Can Shape Clinical Practice and Depression: Integrating Science, Culture, and Humanities.
Bradley Lewis; Melancholia in the Subjunctive Mood. Tikkun 1 April 2012; 27 (2): 54–56. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08879982-2012-2022
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