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AIBU to think we over-pathologise very nomal human behaviour?

(300 Posts)
Breakawaygirl Thu 17-Jan-19 10:57:30

Other threads have got me thinking about this....

We all know that diagnosis of anxiety, depression, autism and other emotional/mental health/neurological conditions are on the rise.

My question is, is it true that we are just paying more attention to conditions that were swept under the rug, or are we over-diagnosing very natural human behaviour.

I've often thought depression, anxiety and other conditions are very natural reactions to our modern world.

Many people wake up early only to be overworked, fed bad food, underpaid, come home to more work, unable to foster connections with loved ones and children, feel lonely, cut off (no community), big uncertainty in the future, pollution, overpopulation, extinction of animals, little nature in some animals and a very aggressive media that seems to have an agenda - surely to feel bad is NORMAL in these circumstances.

I often think the diagnosis is a way of saying it's the PERSON who has the problem rather than the way we conduct our society/culture as a whole.

That is not to minimise that many conditions are the result of neurology and genetics, but a huge component is nurture and lifestyle.

I've often felt that we live in human zoos and are behaviour and neurosis stems from that.

For instance exercise is a natural anti-depressant but most of us don't get enough.

Anxiety is proven to be exaggerated by social media and the idea that everyone is doing better.

Is it that people individually are sicker, or is society sicker?

Curious for people's thoughts.

Breakawaygirl Thu 17-Jan-19 10:58:51

* please ignore typos, phone is not helping me here!

Confusedbeetle Thu 17-Jan-19 10:59:23

Bit of a generalisation. There is sad and there is ill

Breakawaygirl Thu 17-Jan-19 11:01:48

Yes, there is a huge difference between being depressed because of a life circumstance such as a divorce, poor health or death of a loved one and depression that seems to be in-built and just there for no apparent or obvious reason.

But even if I think of people I know they'll say they have depression, when really they are not genetically depressed, they are depressed because they are going through a hard time and to be depressed is a very natural and normal response to that hard. They reply with, 'no, I've just got depression' almost as if it's incurable. I don't know if I agree with this attitude as I think it can take power away from the person.

mummabubs Thu 17-Jan-19 11:04:14

If this area of debate interests you OP try looking up some of Lucy Johnstone's stuff. 😊

Breakawaygirl Thu 17-Jan-19 11:04:16

Other example:

Narcissists: Surely that's not a mental illness or disorder, it's just a selfish person.

TotHappy Thu 17-Jan-19 11:07:47

I kind of agree op, that society is sick. Sicker? I don't know. Think most people throughout history have worked very hard for little reward. Sometimes it seems there was a golden time, between the late 50s and 80s maybe where work was generally manageable hours, secure, and paid enough to live comfortably - not rich but no t desperately anxious all the time about how to survive...
Maybe hunter gatherers were kept more fulfilled, because they got plenty of exercise surviving, their whole life was spent working together in community, and they didn't know about natural disasters until they were already here.. but I don't think I'd want to go back there.

steppemum Thu 17-Jan-19 11:10:39

well, as people who are depressed can have loving homes, fabulous jobs, no money worries and not be on social media, but they are still suffereing from depression, then I think you are on the wrong track.

On the other hand we do now diagnose lots of things that we used to think we just part if the human spectrum of experience. For some, that diagnosis is incredibly helpful. For others less so. And obviously fo some it allows access to medication that helps

Fortybingowings Thu 17-Jan-19 11:11:04

Yes yes yes. We most certainly are over diagnosing. It does little to help and there is a national obsession with 'wellbeing'
A whole flipping industry has sprung up making money from it and it has infiltrated our schools. We are producing kids who are over-counselled by the time they reach 18 and they are unable to appreciate that life has its ups and downs.
The worst effects are on the waiting lists for CAMHS and adult psych. These are clogged up with people who often don't need these services. It means those who are genuinely unwell cannot get seen when they need timely help.

SnuggyBuggy Thu 17-Jan-19 11:12:02

I do think we can sometimes be too quick to stick a diagnostic label on something. I went through a grim period for several years a while back and had so many people telling me to see my GP because I must have depression, I didn't, I was just in a really shit situation.

Breakawaygirl Thu 17-Jan-19 11:15:06

I also think that there are certain behaviours that fortify mental illness/health further.

For example, if you have depression, but HAVE to physically get up because you have to take a child to school or walk your dog, you may still feel depressed and awful but you get moving, endorphins start to work, the feeling may ease.

If you have depression but stay in bed for several days because someone is bringing you food/water, the feeling can get worse.

I guess sometimes we have more of a luxury to give into our minds now than we ever did when we would HAVE to get out for food/water/life. Now that we can stay in bed and things can come to us, it can be easier to 'give in' if that's the right phrase.

I say this as someone who has intermittent phases of depression and anxiety (not genetic, I'd say situational).

Elfinablender Thu 17-Jan-19 11:17:00

I just don't think we live a very healthy life for humans.

I don't think we were meant to spend so much time indoors, away from our family groups who are increasingly spread across the world, with so little exercise, eating the wrong kind of food, attached to our screens and running on adrenaline from a multitude of stress triggers that were only in place so we could avoid the life and death situations.

Yes, we are adaptable but if you took an animal in a zoo, gave it the wrong kind of food, the wrong environment and the wrong activities and kept it running on a knife edge, you wouldn't be scratching your head wondering why everyone was getting sick.

Breakawaygirl Thu 17-Jan-19 11:18:07

I think there is a pressure to always be happy, smiley, successful which doesn't resonate with real human experience and life. When people don't feel happy all the time they think I must be depressed. If they have a panic, they think this must be anxiety. Even if you have a great life, you will still sometimes wake up and just feel sad.

In fact, in some of my happiest (on paper) times, I've felt sad, down, anxious or completely hopeless because I didn't know how to enjoy or appreciate it. I felt I should feel happier, and because I didn't, I assumed there was something 'wrong' with me.

nomorearsingmermaids Thu 17-Jan-19 11:20:34

I have horrendous anxiety. I have suffered with it my whole life. It often makes me feel suicidal but as death is one of the many things I am terrified of...

I have tried CBT, counselling, psychotherapy, medication (any and all types, exercise, yoga, mindfulness, meditation. Bugger all has worked. I hate living like it.

I know full well that most people suffer anxiety, but not to the degree that I do, where I can't ever allow myself to feel happy for fear that is tempting fate and something bad will happen.

To say what you have in your op I'm guessing you have never had a mental illness.

Breakawaygirl Thu 17-Jan-19 11:21:00


Yes totally agree.

I think people were designed to be outside more, being active, in communities, talking, connecting.

Our life's are so insular now, I don't think it helps at all.

OutPinked Thu 17-Jan-19 11:21:18

For example, if you have depression, but HAVE to physically get up because you have to take a child to school or walk your dog, you may still feel depressed and awful but you get moving, endorphins start to work, the feeling may ease.

Hence the people who go to work every day, perhaps have children they also drop off at school but one day it’s all too much and they commit suicide?

Depression isn’t a normal human condition, it’s an illness. I refer to it as cancer of the mind.

MoaningSickness Thu 17-Jan-19 11:21:51

loving homes, fabulous jobs, no money worries and not be on social media, but they are still suffereing from depression

People are notoriously bad at judging what will make them happy. You can have a fabulous home and good job etc. and still be stressed to breaking point maintaining that, feel socially isolated etc.

I have had cyclical depression throughout my life and it was definitely worse when I was poor and had more struggles.

I think the OP is right. But society is slow/hard to fix, and we still have to help individuals now.

SnuggyBuggy Thu 17-Jan-19 11:23:31

I think loneliness is a big issue without easy solutions and I can imagine it presenting as mental illness

MenstruatorExtraordinaire Thu 17-Jan-19 11:24:18

I agree OP. Too much naval gazing and over analyzing of things is not good for anyone.

Eat well, get out in the fresh air, exercise, connect with nature and people, try to help people, stop inwardly obsessing and look outwards.

Actual clinical depression is completely different from feeling a bit fed up about things.

I say that as someone who suffers a lot from depression. I have many coping techniques that help a great deal.

Breakawaygirl Thu 17-Jan-19 11:25:00


I was diagnosed with GAD as a teen because I kept having panic attacks and bad anxiety, but I found a lot of it cleared away when I was in a nicer environment (for me.) Over summer holidays on a nice beach, in the sea, good food, lots of sleep, friends, I felt better, so I deduced that my anxiety was from my situation at home (school, weather, pressure, competition.)

I know many people legitimately suffer and I would never want to take that away from anyone, including yourself.

I am speaking more as a generalisation - do we over-diagnose mental illness in most people? Is depression and anxiety (in it's medical form) truly as common as we think, or do many otherwise healthy people get a diagnosis for a temporary struggle or situational/lifestyle related problem?

BrassHorses Thu 17-Jan-19 11:24:59

I couldn't agree more OP. I've often thought about how modern lifestyles are causing depression and anxiety (I know there are many other causes for these conditions too) when I've been at a tube station in rush hour, witnessing people shuffling to their sedentary office jobs after a long commute. We don't have our work life balance right, and I agree social media doesn't help.

There's so much pressure on people these days to earn earn earn, and not enough focus on nature, holistic health and mental wellbeing.

Superchill Thu 17-Jan-19 11:25:41

Yes, and no.

I think we're more like bees than western culture's individualism recognises, in that we are social animals, and the wellbeing of the hive matters. I don't think our hive is healthy.

There's a theory that most mental illnesses are actually logical reactions to a bad environment.

I think a full understanding comes from looking at it all, individual, society, all layers.

I'm not convinced by an argument that previous generations were more sane. They're the same people who fucked our parents up, remember!

Is this society evolving faster than our psyche and coping mechanisms? Probably.

The same can be said for obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, loads of things we treat as illnesses that are a societal problem with individual effects.

nomorearsingmermaids Thu 17-Jan-19 11:26:51

Eat well, get out in the fresh air, exercise, connect with nature and people, try to help people, stop inwardly obsessing and look outwards.

Erm yeah, may be hard to believe for you but I do all those things and I still suffer.

Tartanwallpaper Thu 17-Jan-19 11:27:33

I agree with you. I think even in the last ten years or so there's been a dramatic shift, a really simple example that always makes me think is not so long ago 'having a chat with a coffee' for most people I know would be a natter at a friends house and a nescafe. Now its go to Costa, sign yourself in there with Facebook then take a photo of your expensive drink and THEN have a chat. It seems to be the almost daily norm for many in my social circle, and it's bloody expensive!

CreakyBlinder Thu 17-Jan-19 11:27:38

I do think that society is constructed wrongly, only serving to generate wealth for the very few. But that wealth is dependent upon millions of people doing shitty jobs for low wages, really giving their lives away in order to keep capitalism moving.

I don't know what the answer is, but for starters I'd put the standard working week down to four days and take it from there. There's no need for so many roles, and so many businesses, to work on a 9-5 basis these days.

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