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Why does depression seem so prevalent lately?

Lately it seems that you can't turn on the TV and not see some commercials advertising depression medication. Has depression become much more prevalent in that last few years?

Asked 3 years ago
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cascade
40
Posted 3 years ago

3 reasons: 1) Greater awareness of depression and acceptance of treating it, in society 2) Quantitative advancements in treatment options (psychological, pharmaceutical, physiological, homeopathic) 3) Societal disconnect on basic human body-based interactions, juxtaposed with increased electronic connection

1) Without looking up any statistics, I am guessing depression rates have not changed dramatically in the last decade or longer. However, attitudes have changed dramatically over time. Previously it was not recognized as the illness that it is, and was not qualified as valid. A broken leg is obvious, painful, and treatable. A depressed psyche can be 'written off' in a host of ways: "Oh he's just lazy", "Quit feeling sorry for yourself!", "hey snap out of it, we're all having fun!", etc. While these harsh sentiments can still exist I think more and more people are aware of what depression is and thus families encourage treatment when it arises.

2) On the treatment side I need not dive too deep but compare ECT and sending people to the funny farm of 60 years ago with today's more sophisticated comprehension of multiple psychologies, brain-scans, brain chemistry, environmental factors, etc. I do think however that our comprehension and manipulation of brain chemistry is rather infantile in the scope of neuro-function. But it has still come a long way over the years.

3) In our modern world (specifically countries where you would see antidepressants advertised), I would posit that many people's lives have become paradoxically more fragmented and more connected. We can click to order a pizza, send the news to our parents that we got a job or got engaged, ask someone out over email, and stay in touch with a grade school friend without hearing there voice in decades. While such connectivity is great, there has also been a marketed decline in the types of daily interactions where one would find a sense of community and connection with humanity. Obviously this sense of community still exists and is available to people as it exists somewhat to the degree one creates it in their life, however, to some degree it is 'work' to call the pizza place instead of ordering online. It is easier to send a txt than to call, easier to check your groceries yourself, etc. Also, spending time with friends in person is very different, emotionally, than being on a computer with someone 1000 or 1 mile away--there is a body-detachment with technology--you are using an external non-human tool for the interaction. Because feelings (depression) are body based, I do not think it serves feelings well to use technology almost to the exclusion of simple body-based interactions (as in, walking up to a friend and patting them on the back to say 'whats up? good to see you, as opposed to sending a text).

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Will Meecham 3 years ago

Without saying I agree with everything he says, in his book 'Anatomy of an Epidemic' Robert Whitaker makes a strong case for the possibility that psychiatric medications actually increase rather than decrease problems. Although he concedes that drugs help in the short run, Whitaker presents a lot of studies to demonstrate that when taken chronically psychopharmaceuticals increase the very symptoms they are supposed to treat. So one explanation for why we see so much depression these days might be that so many people are now maintained on anti-depressants.

It is quite true that non-drug treatments have come a long way in recent decades. Mental health departments often suggest meditation, acceptance practices, Yoga, exercise, thought refinement, etc. All these are great. But I am not certain that medications can truly be considered a major advance. They do dampen extreme symptoms in acute crises. Unfortunately, their use is not restricted to those situations and many, many people end up taking drugs for years with little or no evidence of long-term effectiveness and substantial reason to suspect harm. We all know people who got better for awhile after starting medication, then drifted back into depression, but now can't stop the antidepressant medications because of withdrawal symptoms and/or profound mood problems. Many of these end up on disability. They add to the ranks of the chronically depressed despite supposedly effective medical treatment.

Posted 3 years ago

Just to add to cascade's excellent answer, some of it might just be that since people have become more aware of depression as a problem, drug companies try to take advantage of that and actually produce more commercials. So, what you're seeing in the increase in TV commercials my in fact reflect more of an increase in drug commercials than actual rates of depression diagnosis.

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lynn.j
30
Posted 3 years ago

Do you feel like maybe you are suffering from depression yourself, or are helping a family member cope? I tend to notice TV ads only because they tend to make me think of myself. Maybe they only seem more common because it's on top of your mind?

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