The recent “epidemic” of “depression” is one of my biggest beefs with society today. People are actually gaining exposure from making whiny, longwinded articles for massive media outlets talking about their PTSD induced by overly strict parenting and schoolyard bullying. How can this be happening? When did our culture turn around and show its underbelly to the big mean world? Moaning and whimpering we flock in droves to our underpaid doctors and leech antidepressant pills out of an NHS in crisis, and then feel even more sorry for ourselves as a result because our “needs” and “desires” were not “met appropriately”.
When I myself was a moody teen, I used to wish I’d had a rougher life just so’s I could complain more legitimately. Today I see that such fantasies are no longer necessary, because now everyone’s complaint is valid and worthy not only of consideration, but thorough compensation, too. Hooray! What a shame (read: thank God) I outgrew that stage before I could exploit it.
Our middle-class first world has officially become overly comfortable. Far too full of humourless, well-off, middle-class babies are getting showered with attention for describing their “symptoms” in a semipoetic and fully public way. I think maybe this little epidemic is maybe a little touch overhyped. In fact, calling it “depression” only became fashionable about 40 years ago.
If you check out this comprehensive history of anxiety and depression in the psychiatric trade, you may notice that the percentage of diagnoses suspiciously depends on the medical and pharmaceutical trends of the day. Most of these conditions stem from an overly active work life and the destruction of the nuclear family in a hectic, insular society – all pretty self-explanatory causes for perfectly understandable symptoms.
“Before the 1970s, a broad conception of mental health problems, with stress and anxiety at its core, dominated mental health treatment, research, and policy. (…)
Beginning in the 1970s and accelerating since that time, protean stress conditions were transformed into the particular diagnostic categories that are now foundational in psychiatric classification. The political and economic circumstances the profession confronted in this era [e.g. accusations of keeping women sedated and confined in oppressive social roles] led depression to be a more attractive vehicle than anxiety for realizing psychiatry’s ambitions to become a scientifically respectable branch of medicine. At the same time, the needs of pharmaceutical companies led depression to become the focus of its marketing efforts.”
In other words, it’s a business that feeds off people’s stress and propensity to self-pity, and swaps terminologies around depending on the political climate of the time.
“In sharp contrast to the much faster growth of depressive than anxiety diagnoses, epidemiological studies indicate that rates of the actual amounts of both depression and anxiety remained relatively constant from the early 1990s through the early 2000s (Kessler et al. 2005). For whatever actual problems people sought mental health care, the treatment system and, in all likelihood, the patients themselves were calling them ‘depression.’ For example, depression is the single most common topic of online searches for pharmaceutical and medical products, attracting nearly 3 million unique visitors over a three-month period in 2006 (Barber 2008, p. 14).”
Depression is not the only issue getting far too much attention these days. Identity troubles, body insecurities, sexual preferences… are all perfectly human problems that deserve to be spoken openly about, just not in a public forum, such as parasitic social media or widely read online newspapers. This trend, in fact, seems to mark the breakdown of community spirit in our society. Whereas before, we would turn to our closest companions in times of anxiety or grief, we are now increasingly isolated and given the illusion of companionship via the Internet and anonymous stories of fellow wallowers* who, instead of making us feel any better, only grant legitimacy to our incessant complaints.
Now, the responses I get to criticism of this sort tend to revolve around similar themes: empathy and bigotry. It appears I lack the former, and engage shamlessly in the latter. The modern social left keeps using these words, and I don’t think they mean what they think they mean.
When it comes to “empathy”, they may have a point. Indeed I haven’t the slightest care in the world for the hypothetical protagonist in a Huffington Post sex change saga posted by one of my youthful and overly opinionated Facebook acquaintances. Just the same as you stop empathising with the 15th beggar to pass by your table when you’re trying to have a peaceful coffee and cigarette out on the terrace. We all know a lot of them are engaging in an act of leeching that earns them more money than most minimum wage jobs, but among that lot there may well be a couple of truly unfortunate cases and you always hope that you give your change, or your “empathy”, to the right one.
And now for the little personal story to illustrate how these types of articles affect the rationality of their impressionable and often young readers. For indeed, yours truly used to consume the rampant stupidity that is Everyday Feminism. And I bought into it. I would read about how women are constantly oppressed by little insignificant nothings that men do, I would relate to the listicles describing the horrors of street harrassment, I read statistics of sexual abuse and I felt, frankly, outraged, not to mention thoroughly victimised.
I would positively shout my parents down for giving me reasoned arguments that proved my righteous anger unnecessary and superficial, as that would only anger me more. I was convinced they were just old fashioned Soviets with less sense of right and wrong than your average religious fanatic, and would persistently try to persuade them that they should participate in my distress. My father would say that as a smart and confident woman, I should not let harrassment from sad or depraved randomers affect me so much. I completely ignored the reality of the matter, which was and still is that no amount of griping would change the way others acted around me. It is a part of life to endure unpleasant exchanges with other human beings, and no amount of righteous indignation can alter that fact. I now see the same exact reactions in fully grown adults online in response to any comment that refuses to align to their utopian ideology in which men do not see women in a sexual way (unless permitted to) and yet promiscuity is still completely acceptable and practically encouraged.
Anyway, I grew out of it, and hardly notice these so-called “microaggressions” anymore (let alone let them get to me) – some guys and gals never did.
In other words, publications that supposedly raise awareness of personal issues are majoritarily read by the self-proclaimed victims of injustice they so like to depict, and thus create this orgy of self-pity in a slowly degrading society rife with insincerity and exaggeration.
You know what’s a social construct? Most of the complaining going on nowadays. If we made do with family and confessionals for thousands of years, we are probably strong enough still to overcome our private issues, well, privately.