We are all disordered now
- 29 Aug 2016 12:00
- Written by Michèle Bartlett
As someone who works in mental health, I have become increasingly concerned with the trend towards medicalising and diagnosing of what might be described as "normal" feeling states.
There is a noticeable tendency to ascribe "syndromes" and "disorders" to aspects of the ordinary human condition. So extreme shyness may now become "social anxiety disorder", and this is before we even look at the escalating numbers of children who are labelled ADHD.
As a practitioner, I am frequently alarmed at referrals of quite young children who arrive with multiple labels and diagnoses and consequent medication, some of it manifestly unsuitable for any child.
What does it say about our society that we are unable to look behind the surface behaviour of a child, to consider potential sources of emtional distress and dysregulation, before applying arbitrary categorisations and prescribing medication such as powerful anti-psychotics to "fix" them?
There does seem to be a trend in modern culture towards "Happiness". There are even happiness classes in some schools. Does this give all of us the idea that we should be striving for an unrealisitic state of continual positivity, rather than experiencing fluctuating moods in response to the typical ups and downs of everyday existence?
Ironically, even as we seek to destigmatise mental illness and talk about these issues more, there is a move towards pathologising a range of "normal" feelings. I do not seek to minimise or dismiss the challenges experienced by anyone suffering from depression or severe anxiety, but we help no one by allowing the idea that we need to fix all states of sorrow and discouragement, rather than understanding the light and shade of different feelings as part of the natural vicissitudes of life.
Have we now, as a society, become unable to tolerate certain states and behaviours? Has a lively and distractable child become someone with a syndrome, rather than someone who might need to find a suitable outlet for their energy?
Emotional pain is one part of our existence, but I would argue that healing and resources to deal with this can be found in many ways, and not always by labelling people as "sick".