the headline said: "a quarter of finns suffer from depression." the story continued to explain that most finns suffer from mid-severe to severe depression at some time in their lives and that people prone to depressive states are those with a realistic worldview.
set aside the tabloid headline and a short newspaper article with its shortcomings and consider the claim: a realistic worldview now qualifies as an indicator for a diagnosis of a mental disorder?
through the medicalization processes in modern society we've all become increasingly sick. the psychologization of the self has become so commonplace that normal moodswings create suspicion for bipolar syndrome, feeling down is reason enough to pop pills for depression and being happy is regarded as add. an illusion of stability has replaced the feeling and thinking human expression as some utopian ideal of normalcy.
none if this is new: the medicalization and psychologization of society are researched widely (i've done my part some years back..) and we know that an increasing amount of phenomena that used to be labeled under social or everyday variation is nowadays given a medical diagnosis. the idea of medicalization as a complex process is pretty much accepted in social sciences and even by some medical professionals.
what interests me now is the reasoning behind why we go along so eagerly. it appears obvious that scientific explanations are regarded highly by lay(wo)men. medical science, albeit not tension free, still enjoys the status of the highest authority when it comes to human problems. in other words, we trust doctors, medical doctors in particular. we find getting a diagnosis a relief even in situations where there's no cure in sight because it gives us a plausible clarification for the state of affairs we're dealing with. knowledge itself feels valuable.
psychologization, (or psychopathologization) as a form of medicalization, interests me in particular: why do we seem relieved to find out that we're increasingly sick in the head? it's obvious that the stigma of mental disorders has all but vanished and, nevertheless, we are decreasingly preoccupied with having perfect mental health.
part of the explanation might be found in the clever way psycho-babble appeals to our vanity. people who tend to be depressed are described as realistic, intelligent, deep and analytical. people with bipolar syndrome are often superbly smart and creative. people with asperger's, add, ocd's and other such socially debilitating conditions are, well, you get the point already: very smart. having a mental disorder has become associated with intelligence in ways that imply having a well-functioning brain coincides with being sick or abnormal. thus, it seems intelligence has become pathological.
it may have started as an innocent empirical realization: severe mental disorders are quite often associated with people with high forms of intelligence – but obviously not every time, i.e. children with severe autism are not all savants. after milder disorders were increasingly eagerly diagnosed, the reference to intelligent people tending to have the same condition probably seemed like a reasonable comforting factor. now it is impossible to escape descriptions of support groups and info-sites that do not list intelligence as a common denominator amongst the sufferers of almost every single mental disorder there is. the message seems to be: if you're one of us, it's very likely you're smart!
as a form of intelligence, having a quick wit seems the only kind that is not considered pathological, yet. dwelling on things is fairly close to mild depression. being coldly analytical and detached gives rise to suspicions of asperger's and other forms of autism. enjoying one's job and hating it the next must imply some sort of bipolar syndrome.
sure, you may say. it appears that i'm confusing ordinary people (self-)diagnosing with actual professional work which is far from haphazard insinuations and quick judgments. proper psychological diagnoses are based on thorough evaluation and only conditions that severely damage the capability of the person to function as a part of society are considered illnesses.
i wish it were so. i know of people who have received diagnoses for a debated form of mild ocd (because of a tendency to fidget when stressed out or nervous) and a suspicion of bipolar syndrome, both from medical professionals who weren't psychiatrists or trained in psychology. as for myself, i've suffered under an insane (haha) workload simultaneously with family problems (such as my mother getting terminally ill) that turned me into an depressed insomniac. my clarity in explaining my state created, among other things, suspicions of substance abuse – oddly when i refused the pills i was offered. i am quite certain that these are not rare instances of medical diagnoses that just point out the obvious: sometimes we're happy and sometimes we're not and we react to our different mental states.
every single doctor has comforted me by saying that my reactions and problems are common amongst smart, educated people. why is that, i wonder? if i was conceited i could infer that i must be very smart but that would be poor logic. no doubt that is something they want me to believe – self-deceptively if nothing else.
why the only way to be labeled normal and sane is to be ditsy and superficial? i mean, when did being worried about one's life's direction and the world become signs of intelligence, because they seem rather basic in a life worth living. yeah, i know not everyone is into wondering, but the aforementioned surely are not issues dwelled on by only the superiorly bright. and if you begin thinking about such issues it's hard not to feel let down or disappointed with a variety of states of affairs.
i still want to think that being sad and happy and everything in between is normal. when sad we're usually incapable of concentrating perfectly and when happy we're sometimes deliriously so. are we really ready to start believing that thinking, analyzing and feeling emotions are all signs of illness? more importantly, are we ready to trade our sanity to illusions of intelligence?