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Do you have a mental illness? Why some people answer ‘yes’, even if they haven’t been diagnosed


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Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders have become more common, especially among young peopleDemand for treatment is increasing and prescriptions for some psychiatric medications They have risen.

These trends of increasing prevalence are accompanied by growing public attention to mental illness. Mental health messages saturate traditional and social media. Organizations and governments are developing awareness, prevention and treatment initiatives with increasing urgency.

The growing cultural interest in mental health has obvious benefits: it increases awareness, reduces stigma and encourages help-seeking.

However, it may also have costs. Critics fear social media Sites are incubating mental illness and that ordinary unhappiness is being pathologized by the overuse of diagnostic concepts and “speech therapy“.

British psychologist Lucy Foulkes argues that trends in increasing attention and prevalence are linked. His “Prevalence inflation hypothesis” proposes that increased awareness of mental illness may lead some people to misdiagnose themselves when they experience relatively mild or transient problems.

Foulkes’ hypothesis implies that some people develop overly broad concepts about mental illness. Our research supports this view. In a new study, we show that the concepts of mental illness have expanded in recent years, a phenomenon we call “concept of expansion” – and so People differ in the breadth of his concepts about mental illness.

Why do people self-diagnose mental illnesses?

In our new studyWe examined whether people with broad concepts of mental illness are, in fact, more likely to self-diagnose.

We defined self-diagnosis as a person’s belief that they have an illness, regardless of whether or not they have received a diagnosis from a professional. We assessed people as having a “broad concept of mental illness” if they judged a wide variety of experiences and behaviors to be disorders, including relatively mild conditions.

We asked a nationally representative sample of 474 American adults whether they believed they had a mental disorder and whether they had received a diagnosis from a health care professional. We also asked them about other possible contributing factors and demographics.

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Mental illness was common in our sample: 42% reported having a current self-diagnosed condition, most of whom had received it from a health care professional.

As expected, the strongest predictor of reporting a diagnosis was experiencing relatively severe distress.

The second most important factor after distress was having a broad concept of mental illness. When their levels of distress were equal, people with broad conceptions were substantially more likely to report a current diagnosis.

The graph below illustrates this effect. It divides the sample by levels of distress and shows the proportion of people at each level who report a current diagnosis. People with broad concepts of mental illness (the highest quarter of the sample) are represented by the dark blue line. People with narrow concepts of mental illness (the lowest quarter of the sample) are represented by the light blue line. People with broad concepts were much more likely to report having a mental illness, especially when their distress was relatively high.

Percentage of participants with broad (dark blue) or narrow (light blue) concepts of mental illness who self-diagnosed themselves at different levels of distress. Provided by the authors

People with higher mental health literacy and less stigmatizing attitudes were also more likely to report a diagnosis.

Our study yielded two other interesting results: people who had self-diagnosed themselves but had not received a professional diagnosis tended to have broader concepts about the disease than those who had received a professional diagnosis.

In addition, younger and politically progressive people were more likely to report a diagnosis, which is consistent with some prior researchand had broader concepts about mental illness. Their tendency to have these broader concepts partly explained their higher rates of diagnosis.

Why does that matter?

Our findings support the idea that expansive concepts of mental illness promote self-diagnosis and may therefore increase the apparent prevalence of mental ill health. Individuals who have a lower threshold for defining distress as a disorder are more likely to identify themselves as having a mental illness.

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Our findings do not directly show that people with broad concepts overdiagnose or that people with narrow concepts underdiagnose. Nor do they prove that having broad concepts Causes self-diagnosis or results in current increase in mental illness. However, the findings raise significant concerns.

First, they suggest that increased awareness about mental health may have a costIn addition to increasing mental health literacy, it may increase the likelihood that people will misidentify their problems as pathologies.

Inadequate self-diagnosis can have adverse effects. Diagnostic labels can become identity-defining and self-limiting as people come to believe that their problems are long-lasting. difficult to control aspects of who they are.

Second, unwarranted self-diagnosis may lead people experiencing relatively mild levels of distress to seek unnecessary, inappropriate, and ineffective help. Australian research They found that people with relatively mild distress who received psychotherapy more often got worse than they got better.

Third, these effects may be especially problematic for young people, who are the most likely to have broad concepts about mental illness, in part due to social media consumptionand suffer from mental illness at relatively high and increasing rates. It remains to be seen whether expansive concepts of illness play a role in the youth mental health crisis.

Cultural changes are encouraging ever-broader definitions of mental illness. These changes are likely to have both advantages and disadvantages. By normalising mental illness, they may help to remove its stigma. However, by pathologising some forms of everyday suffering, they may have an unintended negative effect.

As we battle the mental health crisis, it is critical that we find ways to raise awareness of poor mental health conditions without inadvertently inflating them.The conversationThe conversation

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This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the Original article.



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