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MoneyMakingMommy's avatar

Is Anxiety and Depression more common nowadays or just more "out there" and discussed than it used to be?

Asked by MoneyMakingMommy (297points) March 28th, 2010

I realize that now that we have gobs of pharmaceutical commercials and ads – that maybe that’s why it might appear to be more prevalent – but is it the only reason? Is it our lifestyle? The food we eat? Or has there just always been a lot of depression and anxiety in humans?

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67 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

Lifetime prevalence doesn’t seem to have changed between DSM III and DSM IV.

thriftymaid's avatar

No. People just like to think they can diagnose each other.

Just_Justine's avatar

I think its a mixed bag of reasons. Too many pressures from expectations, Doctors having more resources (medicines), more research being done meaning types of depression being understood better. More willingness to accept help (because you might have to, as you hold down a demanding job). Lack of family support as the family disintegrates.

Kraigmo's avatar

The triggers that cause anxiety and depression are more prevalent now than ever before in history of modern world.

Lack of natural beauty, lack of emotional expression in real time, flashing images in more places, lots of square shapes, lots of shades of gray and white, lack of free time, exposure to toxins, lack of ritual, dependence on material, and reliance on false authorities… all these things lead sensitive people to get aggravated, depressed, or otherwise nervous. The same poisoning of the mind occurs to the general population as well, but the effect on them is more subtle and takes many times longer before they are visibly affected.

susanc's avatar

@dpworkin: but that’s only 25 years or so, if I count back properly. I’m not sure we were measuring very rigorously back in the late 70’s, and I’m not sure we’re measuring very rigorously now. Reported cases, sure, but….

- I’m attracted to what @thriftymaid is saying, even though I know anxiety and depression are real. Interested in what you think of this view.

dpworkin's avatar

I don’t know what @thriftymaid means. Incidence goes up when surveys of clinicians produce the data. As far as I know the studies are fairly sound in affective disorders such as anxiety and depression (not so much in the area of Personality Disorders, that’s where you get the big discrepancies.)

I don’t know any clinicians who think the numbers are changing that much, and i wouldn’t trust any metric that didn’t have a lot of clinical backing.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

I think there are businesses that are making a fortune by telling us we need their pills.
Surely some people have legitimate depression but it is highy overdiagnosed.

susanc's avatar

@dpworkin I trust your intellectual rigor implicitly, but maybe you could say more. It just seems like a very short-term difficult-to-measure sample. Not?
Because… the question seems to reflect a general increase in the naming of all difficult feelings as clinical depression and anxiety, and I too wonder if the world is making us unhappier or if we’re just using the words more.

dpworkin's avatar

We have much more empirical data about affective disorders than any other disorder. I question statistics on ADHD, on Antisocial Personality Disorder (well, really on any disorder on Axis II Cluster B) but I’m fairly confident when it comes to Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

dpworkin's avatar

(Fairly confident.)

MoneyMakingMommy's avatar

I find that sometimes seeing the anti-depressant commercials makes me feel like I might have something wrong with me! I mean, I know that sounds weird – but they talk about being tired, having aches and pains….it’s so general, some of the symptoms….you start thinking….“do I have something wrong?” I just wonder if that doesn’t add to everyone feeling like they have “something” wrong.

Syger's avatar

Depression is profitable to pillpushers, so it’s diagnosed more and therefore more discussed. It also seems to be ‘trendy’ to claim disorders nowadays.

Ron_C's avatar

Americans go through medical fads. I remember past life regressions, then everybody was going the therapy, then there was a celebrity rush to rehabilitation, then drug companies ramped up advertising so now there is drug therapy for kids that get tired of being couped up in class, and anti-depression drugs that cause suicide.

Americans need to turn off the television and go outside to play, garden, bike, whatever.

Even I get depressed watching the drug advertising on television.

If Americans weren’t depressed by constant war, having their children murdered overseas or by gangs with guns in their own neighborhoods, then the current state of affairs should make them feel better than ever.

Coloma's avatar

I have always been of the mind that the the demands of modern life have far surpassed mans ability to adapt, adjust.

Survival has always been a stressor on humanity, whether it was the pressure of providing the Mastodon or the Lizard, or gathering roots instead of berries. lol

BUT… in the very short span of the last 100 years this crazy ass modern world has exploded in critical mass in terms of what is required to just barely get along.
Humans were not intended to live with the kinds of stress we experience today.

Jetting along at 80mph contained in metal cans on a freeway, the absurdity of 50–60+ hour work weeks, the stress of paying for goods that are pumped up a dozen or more times their actual value.

Is it any wonder that our health & relationships of all kinds are in the toilet?

I have done and do my best to avoid being a cog in the wheel of insanity. haha

Do you kknow that the Natl. health coalition upped stress over smoking as the number 1 health threat in 1984! Thats pretty profound if you ask me.

Ron_C's avatar

@Coloma I think that we take as much stress as we are willing to handle. I notice many people, especially in the city, generate their own stress. I personally like going over 80 MPH, I find it exhilarating. Unfortunately, the highway patrol is not really supportive of my method of tension release.

filmfann's avatar

Anxiety and depression have always been about, but they were called different things, and treated differently. Women were called frail or unstable, and put in sanitariums.

Coloma's avatar


Lol..yes, well..I agree, and, I like putting the pedal to the metal too!

Pick your poison, I drive fast for the same reasons you mention but hate, hate, hate, being fenced in by societal protocol. Bah Humbug!

Ron_C's avatar

@Coloma me too, that’s why I have been thrown out of “sensitivity” meetings. I was even thrown out of a baptismal class by the priest that was teaching it.

lloydbird's avatar

A sick societal situation produces sick individuals.

Except for the few that are ‘Naturally Immune’.

mollypop51797's avatar

I think they were always there, but nowadays it’s just more talked about. This economy has given us stress and anxiety. there will always be things that cause depression and anxiety but it depends on how we choose to deal with it.

DominicX's avatar

I tend to agree with @Kraigmo on this one. I don’t know if I could ever really prove it, but I think the differences in the world now from previous times do affect the amount of anxiety that people experience and have led to its increase. Things that would’ve prompted someone to shrug in centuries past are now reasons to commit suicide. Granted, priorities have changed. Back in say, the 7th century, life was shorter, there were more diseases, and you were probably worrying too much about fighting off the enemy tribe and preventing your village from being burned down to cry about a B on a test.

I think we expect too much out of life, we are constantly chasing impossible ideals and trying to be perfect and have the perfect life, we are making life as complicated as possible and it is not helping. I hate to just say “simplify”, but I really think that would solve a lot of problems. Nature is being ignored and destroyed instead of appreciated, revered, and enjoyed. This says something as well.

I do also suspect that these conditions are over-diagnosed, however.

phillis's avatar

The stigma surrounding it, it is what has changed. I’ve done everything I could to blow the stigma straight to hell, including within my own family. The days of hiding in shame are OVER. As society changed, the commercials increased. Remember when Dole first did his ED ad? People were just emerging from the Closet of Shame, so the topic was still shocking.

Anxiety and depression has been with us for EONS, but nobody knew what it was. There was a whole lot of drinking going on as people tried to self-medicate. Observers chalked up what they saw to everything from the person having a difficult personality to demonic possession. But now we know what it is. Bipolar disorder is still relatively new, believe it or not. People who were underdiagnosed for decades are just recently learning that they are bipolar, as well. But just like with ADD and ADHD, there will be a leveling off period.

meagan's avatar

I think its more common because a lot of people weren’t mature enough to know what it takes to raise a person.
So a lot of people grew up without understanding what it takes to survive in the real world (myself included)

thriftymaid's avatar

@susanc My point is that in society in general, people have learned a few terms and teens now think they are “clinically depressed” because their boyfriend looked at another girl. I get a kick out of posters on sites like this diagnosing mental disease. Life has ups and downs and every time we aren’t smiling and laughing is not an episode of depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, BPD, or schizophrenia. It’s like everyone becomes a professional when they log on to a QA site.

phillis's avatar

@thriftymaid We ARE professionals. We’ve lived with these issues for years as unwilling, constant companions to a disorder that couldn’t care less if we ever drew another breath.

By now, we intimately know pretty much every psychotropic drug ever offered up, just to get to the emotional state that is perfectly normal to you. Except, instead of Ph.D’s to hang on our walls for our knowledge, we got institutions.

I WISH I had been diagnosed when I was a teen! It would surely have saved me years of wanting to fucking die. Better this way, than what was available to us as teens. Leave it alone.

Ria777's avatar

@filmfann: Women were called frail or unstable, and put in sanitariums.

yes, and now they call themselves that and get shrinks to put them on meds. neither solves the root problems.

plethora's avatar

@Ria777 It’s an honor to be in the presence of the ultimate authority…..on most anything. Thank you….:)

mattbrowne's avatar

Diagnosis is much better today. There was more anxiety, depression and trauma during WWII.

Ria777's avatar

during World War II, the modern concepts of depression and anxiety did not even exist.

now that those memes have gotten created, people have begun to identify and associate themselves with the categories which in turn leads to progressive bracket creep*.

meanwhile, with some exceptions**, the societal reasons for malaise and worry go ignored.

*—the broadening of the definition of X, where X stands for a psychiatric category
**—attention paid to bullying, sexual and other forms of child abuse.

mattbrowne's avatar

The concepts (memes) were not created after WWII.

Ron_C's avatar

@mattbrowne please know that I am not saying this to offend you. You seem to be defending psychology and psychiatry. My personal opinion is that the two occupations straddle the fence between science and pseudo-science. Psychology especially seems, to me, to be more concerned with aggrandizing itself than really helping people. Their knowledge seems only to be really effective in advertising and politics rather than helping individual patients.

Psychiatry is psychology with drugs but does help some people because some of the drugs can correct imbalances in the brain. Other than that, the rest is just tradition and psychobabble. My feelings have always been that a teacher, preacher, or your grandparents can be just as effective in talking you through your problems. A $200/hour “expert” is not necessary for ordinary psychological problems.

dpworkin's avatar

@Ron_C There has been very little evidence to show that psychodynamic psychotherapy is effective, but there is a great deal of empirical evidence through longitudinal studies which do support the efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

I agree with you that a $200 an hour “expert” is not the practitioner of choice, unless you need the services of a very well trained psychopharmacologist, but I strongly disagree that clinical counselors fail to assist patients. They do so every day, and they do so by using modern psychological protocols.

Ria777's avatar

@mattbrowne: shrinks back on those days had a different toolkit altogether. they talked about neurosis and nervous collapse, a bit further back neurasthenia. they had an entirely different vocabulary largely derived from Freud.

when I say memes, I say memes. memes created by language and expectation. when I say concepts I mean concepts. concepts created by language and expectation. look into something called the Sapir-Worf hypothesis.

Ria777's avatar

@Ron_C: I think that shrinks do a worse job for extraordinary problems than they do with ordinary ones. unless they’ve lived through them, they don’t know. they don’t have the understanding.

dpworkin's avatar

When I say hexawallborpenque, I mean hexawallborpenque created by language and expectation.

dpworkin's avatar

That was already clear to me.

Ria777's avatar

@dpworkin: well, as long as we have the same definition.

Ron_C's avatar

@dpworkin the only time I met a psychiatrist was when I had a sever claustrophobic reaction (I don’t want to go into the circumstances). He was a young guy that scared me because he seemed much more unstable than me. I later heard from a doctor friend that psychiatrists likely went into that branch of medicine to find out about themselves.

I can’t say that all psychologists are useless. I went to one for pain therapy. He didn’t make the pain go away but taught me how to self-hypnotize myself to reduce the discomfort. By the way, he only charged $45 a session.

dpworkin's avatar

Most psychiatrists don’t do counseling, and I wouldn’t recommend a psychiatrist as a counselor, but there are social workers, and other kinds of clinicians who are trained in cognitive-behavioral therapy, and they can really help.

Ron_C's avatar

@dpworkin but isn’t it true that most of the people helped by clinicians aren’t crazy? They just need to talk to someone that will help them make better choices in their lives.

I think that really crazy people can either be helped with drugs or institutionalization. Talking will not help people that are really deranged.

dpworkin's avatar

I’ve been studying and reading in this area for years, and I’m not sure what “crazy” means. I think everything is dynamic, developmental, arranged along some sort of continuum, and that there are indeed some very severely disturbed people at one end of the spectrum, but all of the rest of us are probably a little nuts, too.

Believe it or not psychotic behavior yields to intervention. Personality Disorders are more difficult, but research by Marsha Linehan (q.v.) suggests that some of these people (e.g. Borderline Personality Disorder, and some of disorders in the same cluster) can really be helped.

We certainly don’t know what to do about callous sociopaths.

Ron_C's avatar

@dpworkin I’ve always prided myself at being a little nuts. I don’t like the same things as my peers and have a skewed perspective that I really enjoy.

I am fascinated that you can talk a person out of psychotic behavior. I thought that most of the bazaar behavior was a result of chemical imbalances or loss of function in some part of the brain.

dpworkin's avatar

Neuroleptics work better with talking support. The talking doesn’t really help without the anti-psychotics.

Ria777's avatar

@dpworkin: I’ve been studying and reading in this area for years, and I’m not sure what “crazy” means.

crazy means deluded. intractably wrong about your vision of reality. the term has no medical value. “suffering from mental illness” means the same as crazy. that has doesn’t have any medical vablue.

Ria777's avatar

@Ron_C: I thought that most of the bazaar [sic… you mean bizarre] behavior was a result of chemical imbalances or loss of function in some part of the brain.

you’ve heard this truism (what a psychologist would call a “thought-stopping cliche”) so often that you believe it. (I won’t go into the reasons behind this. I will keep this post concise.) or maybe you never heard otherwise.

we have a brain, we have a body and we have a mind.

Ria777's avatar

@dwpworkin: Neuroleptics work better with talking support. The talking doesn’t really help without the anti-psychotics.

give a person enough neuroleptics and they don’t understand a word you say. I see two neuroleptic casualties walking around town. (one of them used to room with a friend.) lumbering around stare blankly ahead, like fishes.

dpworkin's avatar

@Ria777 People are overmedicated, and medication is overprescribed. That is not the fault of the medication.

Ron_C's avatar

@Ria777 I am not sure about your point, do you agree that bizarre behavior is a result of a chemical imbalance or are you telling me that it is not true and I have been fed a line of b.s.

Also, thanks for the correction, bizarre is not a word I often use. I am a technician with little contact with the mental health community. I am frankly afraid of them because of their potential to manipulate. I am a bit confused about your final comment, I understand brain and body but am not sure what you mean by mind. To me mind is the software running in the brain.

mattbrowne's avatar

No, no, I’m not offended at all. Of course our understanding of anxiety disorders, depression and other mental illnesses improves every year. And a lot of progress corroborating or refuting particular views comes from neurobiology, although there’s still too much competition and not enough cooperation. But all of this doesn’t mean the general concepts didn’t exist before WWII. They are not modern memes. Just as an example, look at the history section here

Otto Loewi was a German pharmacologist whose discovery of acetylcholine helped enhance medical therapy. The discovery earned for him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1936 which he shared with Sir Henry Dale. He has been referred to as the “Father of Neuroscience.”

Ria777's avatar

@mattbrowne: They are not modern memes.

during World War II, the phrases “clinical depression” and “anxiety disorder” did not exist. therefore the memes did not exist. (you may consider language trivial. I don’t. we define ideology with it.)

Ria777's avatar

@dpworkin: That is not the fault of the medication.

if you gave people sugar pills rather than neuroleptics, would they walk around with blank stares? no. therefore you can call the fault of the medication. and of the people giving it, out, because they don’t prescribe themselves.

Ria777's avatar

@Ron_C: _ I am not sure about your point, do you agree that bizarre behavior is a result of a chemical imbalance or are you telling me that it is not true and I have been fed a line of b.s._

it tells a partial truth, not the whole one. we have a loop between behavior, consciousness and biochemistry, all three interacting with each other and the world.

phillis's avatar

@Ria777 Wait….what? Medication doesn’t sprout legs, pry a person’s mouth open, and hop down the throat. I am not one to nitpick the shit out of somebody, but in this case, the damage can be significant if proper responsibility is not assigned. It is imperitive that we clarify the thought process on this, else we cannot anticipate and circumvent an upcoming problem when we had the chance. This is how problems slide past us before we realize them, regardless of the topic. No debates, I simply wanted to clarify.

Ria777's avatar

@phillis: Medication doesn’t sprout legs, pry a person’s mouth open, and hop down the throat.

I said the same in my post. (i.e. medication doesn’t prescribe itself). if you meant, people don’t have to take it if prescribed, well, yeah, I mean, if you take a substance which debilitates the way in the first place, it can get into a downward spiral, especially with a shrink interpolating their views. as well, numbness might seem preferable to life.

the parts in italics I quoted from @dpworkin, since Fluther doesn’t have a “quote” function.

dpworkin's avatar

I still don’t see how malpractice, overprescription and misprescription are the fault of the medication, but, oh well.

Ria777's avatar

@dpworkin: you’ve effectively derailed me with linguistic games regarding “the fault of the medication”. really, though, if you meant that shrinks make errors, we agree.

I would ban Ritalin in a heartbeat, if I could, though.

dpworkin's avatar

I didn’t mean to derail you. I meant to agree with you that medication is often, and dangerously misprescribed. However I know someone very well (anecdotal evidence, I know) whose narcolepsy responds very well to Ritalin, and with far fewer side effects than her former Dexedrine.

Ron_C's avatar

@Ria777 my point was that I am pretty sure that “uncontrollable” bizarre behavior is a result of chemical and possibly electrical problems in the brain. My other point is that the freudian “talk” therapy is mostly b.s.

It is possible that some minor software glitches in the brain can be solved by simply talking to a person to get them back on the right track. Really sick people, I believe, can only be helped by finding the source of the physical malfunction. Some of which may not be repairable. An example would be a serial killer. There is no fixing them so they need to be confined forever or put down.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Ria777 – Check out the history of the word “depression”

“dejection, depression of spirits” is from 1660s (as a clinical term in psychology, from 1905)

The clinical term “manic depressive” is from 1902, but manic depression is first attested 1958

“anxiety” 1520s, from L. anxietatem (nom. anxietas). Psychiatric use dates to 1904.

Ria777's avatar

@Ron_C: my point was that I am pretty sure that “uncontrollable” bizarre behavior is a result of chemical and possibly electrical problems in the brain.

though you may hold that view, you cannot prove it scientifically. how would you disprove it? you can prove a scientific theory false. you can’t prove that false.

that view does not explain how one identical twin can have a problem (which can and does happen) and the other, not.

more fundamentally, it omits the role of consciousness in human experience. if you omit consciousness you don’t have a person at all. you don’t even have a living thing.

Ria777's avatar

@mattbrowne: psychiatry still operated from a Freudian rather than “chemical imbalance” paradigm. they didn’t talk about “having depression”. if “manic depression [was] first attested 1958” then that falls in line with my prior statement.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Ria777 – The question was about the symptoms, not the cause i.e. chemical imbalance.

Ron_C's avatar

@Ria777 I don’t know how to answer you. My point is that it seems that the brain is made up of the physical (chemical, electrical, brain cells) and the programming software. In my experience the only way for one computer to fix another’s software problem is for the repair computer to be smarter than the subject. Hardware problems are easier to isolate and solve so equal computers could do repairs on each other.

I think people are similar in that we can isolate and repair chemical, electrical, and even problems that are a result of trauma. I am not sure that we can fix software problems on each other. Software problems, to me, are ones caused by distorted thinking or perception not caused by physical or chemical problems.

In my experienced, the only problems that are cured by “talk therapy” are ones that are self induced.

Ria777's avatar

@mattbrowne: I said that the memes did not exist at that time. you said that they did, so…

@Ron_C: In my experienced, the only problems that are cured by “talk therapy” are ones that are self induced.

never did I put in a vote for talk therapy. I do believe in working with your problems and using physical methods like yoga.

about your computer model, like the “mental illness” model, it distorts the situation. you even had to break the metaphor to communicate what you meant, i.e. “the only for one computer to fix another’s software problem”.

Software problems, to me, are ones caused by distorted thinking or perception not caused by physical or chemical problems.

distorted thinking does cause physical problems. our thoughts progressively and continually reshape our neural connections.

as you said, bad experiences cause the initial problem. we then often perpetuate it by my mistakes which causes a feedback loop.

Ron_C's avatar

@Ria777 most of your responses seem to agree with my software metaphor and since only a more powerful computer can fix software mistakes in another computer, it follows that people cannot not fix software problems in others.

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