Is It a Bad Mood or a Disorder?

By Samantha Schoenfeld

It is common for people to not recognize depression and anxiety as disorders, preferring to stereotype people suffering from mental health disorders as weak individuals making things up.

“Many patients have difficulty telling a doctor that they feel depressed because of fears of stigma and shame,” wrote Robert Klitzman, a psychiatrist and director of bioethics at Columbia University, in a Newsweek article published on January 29, 2010.

So how can people differentiate between someone who is merely going through a rough time and someone who should be diagnosed with clinical depression?

Well, someone who loses their job, goes through a break-up, or does poorly on a test in school may experience sadness for a short period of time or be anxious about dealing with the situation. However, there is a desire to cure everything and anything because the person is disappointed, not unhealthy.

Someone who is clinically depressed or has anxiety disorder is sad – or worse – for an extended period of time. And typically, to diagnosis someone as clinically in need of assistance the disorder must  affect  his or her daily life. Klitzman said in his article that severity of depression is dependent on the individual and not the prime factor in determining the best form of treatment.

Although it depends on the individual, there seems to be a trend of diagnosing patients immediately with depression or anxiety, rather than examining what is going on in the patient’s life. From 1996 to 2005, the number of Americans taking anti-depressants nearly doubled, from 13.3 million to 25 million.

Carolyn Clark, a junior magazine major in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, agrees many doctors give out too many prescriptions: She feels that many people on medication look for “instant gratification” to get a quick fix to a sadness that may go away in time.

“I think that people don’t like feeling bad, and rather than dealing with that feeling, they’d rather have someone say, ‘there’s something wrong with you; here is a pill to make it go away,’” she said.

This may be true. A lot of people are instantly put on medication when a relative or close friend dies, when they lose a job, or when they go through a major break-up or divorce. Some of those cases may warrant treatment. Other cases, where patients have no reason to feel sad and anxious, and yet cannot cope with their random and irrational emotions, may warrant medication. It comes down to that some people cannot deal with situations as well as others, and people have to respect that everyone has their own stuff to deal with in life, whether it is a messed up family or a mental disorder.

“I think that at a certain point some people just can’t emotionally handle the stresses of life,” said Mollie Teeter, a sophomore magazine and psychology dual major at Syracuse University. “Some people just can’t as well as others, just like some people aren’t as good at basketball, as like, Onuaku, but it is a problem that a lot of people have to deal with.”

Samantha Schoenfeld works as the Web editor at The Student Voice. She is a sophomore magazine journalism major at SU.

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