Chris Uggen's Blog: medicalization and mental illness

Friday, July 01, 2005

medicalization and mental illness

After widely publicized concern that anti-anxiety benzodiazepines such as Xanax would be excluded under new Medicare guidelines, the federal government appears to be reversing course. The stigma associated with medication and mental illness can be measured, in part, by reaction to Tom Cruise's diatribe on the medicalization of postpartum depression and Brooke Shields' response in a New York Times op-ed:
  • In a strange way, it was comforting to me when my obstetrician told me that my feelings of extreme despair and my suicidal thoughts were directly tied to a biochemical shift in my body...

My sense is that postpartum depression is less stigmatizing than plain vanilla depression, perhaps because the body changes so much with childbirth that a speedy return to "normal" is anticipated:

  • With a doctor's care, I have since tapered off the medication, but without it, I wouldn't have become the loving parent I am today.

There is a large research literature on stigmatization of mental illness. This case suggests to me that mental illness may be less stigmatizing when it is (1) acute rather than chronic; (2) demonstrably linked to changes in physical health or biochemical shifts; and, (3) associated with a social good (such as motherhood) rather than a social bad (such as illicit drug use). I notice that Shields' editorial uses the term "postpartum depression" eight times and the generic "depression" only once. Do people still subscribe to the "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" theory (or Cruise's novel prescription of "diet and exercise") for other forms of depression?


At 1:10 AM, Blogger Donlety said...

The administration of the anti-anxiety drug xanax would yield suitable results only when you are consistent in your xanax regimen but altogether while taking xanax, you are likely to encounter certain xanax effects such as tremors, bewilderment, headache, giddiness et al. These xanax side-effects are temporary only but whenever you encounter them, you should approach a doctor immediately.

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Kathy R. said...

he other day I was flipping around the channels on my television when I came across a sign of the times. A major pharmaceutical company was advertising one of their medicines for use as a treatment for a psychological disorder.
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