One problem is that no one is quite sure what causes depression. Everyone knows, or will likely know one day, what it feels like to be depressed. This is why depression is often referred to as "the common cold of mental illness."
This essay examines the main features of the labelling theory and how this has contributed to the study of anxiety and depression. It aims to summaries modern perceptions of mental health as depicted in two recent newspaper articles. It will also discuss contributing factors for these perceptions such as: the diagnostic system in place for mental disorders, reduced stigma by means of medicalisation, and finally recent psychotherapeutical methods employed to treat depression and anxiety holistically.
It is a common perception in both newspaper articles (Metro, 7 March 2010 and The Guardian, 11 June 2010) that the numbers of medicated cases of anxiety and depression have increased dramatically over the last ten years; with six in ten of us having faced some form of mental distress in our lives. (Metro, 7 March). While there is a general consensus about the rise in these medicated disorders, there are disputes over the cause. For example, some argue that the increase is due to ‘improved diagnosis and reduced stigma’. (Metro, 7 March). whilst others argue social factors, such as the recent recession, have a role to play. (The Guardian, 11 June 2010). A person is diagnosed with anxiety or clinical depression after meeting the criteria of symptoms in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, first published in 1952, and revised several times before the most recent version in 2000. The DSM IV is the current reference manual used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental disorders and lists over 200 mental health conditions and the criteria required for making an appropriate diagnosis.
Before the standardisation of the classification system in the 1970’s researchers could not compare results and theories accurately, as there were so many different definitions used. The standardization was clearly an improvement as the DSM allowed for a broader view of mental illness when conducting research. However, there are also limitations to such categories, over time, categories can become accepted boundaries and therefore research and diagnosis may only be conducted with reference only to such categories, thus limiting the prospects for progression. Howard Becker(1963 ) developed the Labelling Theory which states that labelling an individual as mentally ill not only stigmatizes that individual, but encourages or produces the very behaviour deemed to be ‘abnormal’. This illustrates that once labeled, one can define themselves, and are defined by others in relation to that label. Thus it could be argued that how you’re labeled determines how you feel. After all, the mere term ‘depression’ has several negative and clinical connotations- forcing the world to perceive it as a disorder. Terms such as loneliness and isolation are common substitutes which imply an actionable outcome, whereas the term ‘depression’ suggests no solution. (Mead, G. H. 1934) One would not describe a person suffering from cancer as ‘cancerous’ so why do we describe people who suffer from depression as ‘depressives’? It is as if to say the term thoroughly describes them. Conversely, some people find relief when they learn that the symptoms they are experiencing have a name, which can offer a sense of hope and personal control over the illness as more can be learned about its causes, treatment, and outcome. http://www.allaboutdepression.com/dia_01.html However, the question is raised: Is this ‘improved diagnosis’ or is this method the catalyst behind a vicious cycle? By categorizing people, are we feeding stigmas or are we making it ok to be emotionally different from others? Although the DSM IV states it is not used to categorise people, but to categorise the conditions people have, it has created...
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