Is There an Epidemic of Mental Illness?

This is David Brooks in The New York Times:

Anybody who is on antidepressants, or knows somebody who is, should read Marcia Angell’s series “The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?” from The New York Review of Books. Many of us have been taught that depression arises, in part, from chemical imbalances in the brain. Apparently, there is no evidence to support that.

Many of us thought that antidepressants work. Apparently, there is meager evidence to support that, too. They may work slightly better than placebos, Angell argues, but only under certain circumstances. They may also be permanently altering people’s brains and unintentionally fueling the plague of mental illness by causing episodes of mania, for example.

Comments (4)

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  1. Marvin says:

    The epidemic use of anti-depressants does make one wonder how our ancestors coped. While some did suffer severe hardship with undiagnosed mental illnesses, the majority accepted that there will be times when you just are not happy. I wish I knew why it is so different today. Are we really all that sadder than previous generations?

  2. Jeff says:

    You mean Marcia Angell is finally saying something sensible?

  3. Buster says:

    Are we are trying to medicate a normal personality trait out of existence? It’s hard to say. Maybe what some people refer to as mental illness is just a naturally occurring trait — albeit an annoying one — that provides an evolutionary advantage to some people. Awhile back a study suggested anxious people were more prone to spot enemies attempting to infiltrate their ranks and helped ensure survival of groups that included both anxious and confident people.

  4. Brian says:

    Interesting post, and interesting points Buster, Marvin.
    I would argue that mental illness is probably on the rise and that the definition of what constitutes “mentally ill” will be adjusted in the coming decades.