Posted by Sponsored Post Posted on 27 March 2023

The Real Reason Why Mental Illness Is So Prevalent

There’s an increasing number of people with mental illnesses like depression, general anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Currently, 20 percent of adults in the United States experience mental illness every year, with 5 percent of adults experiencing a serious mental illness every year. 

Across all age groups, the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and other “common” mental health issues is steadily increasing.

But why is this the case?

Let’s explore the possibilities.

Therapy and Diagnostic Criteria

We’ll start with a simple explanation for why these statistics may be somewhat inflated: therapy is more accessible than ever before. There are countless therapists that take insurance, and even those who don’t take insurance are doing more to make therapy available and affordable for everyone.

Intuitively, you might think that better availability of mental health help should decrease the prevalence numbers. But in reality, increased accessibility of mental health resources increases the number of people who are observed, studied, and reported on. As a simple illustrative example, if 20 percent of people go to therapy, we might find that 10 percent of people have depression. If 40 percent of people go to therapy, we might find that 20 percent of people have depression.

We’re also gaining a better understanding of how mental illness works, and we have better diagnostic tools to specifically diagnose people. This is naturally going to increase reported rates of mental health issues.

Social Media and Isolation

It’s no secret that social media has risen to be ubiquitous in society. Almost all of us use social media at least occasionally, and most of us use it every day. Unfortunately, excessive social media use has a cascade of different effects, including:

  •       Addiction and distraction. People who use social media sometimes struggle with it as a distraction and an addiction. This is not a coincidence. In fact, most social media platforms are specifically designed to capture your attention and encourage addictive behaviors. People are trained like monkeys to respond to buzzing notifications and check for new developments unconsciously. In extreme cases, this can pull you away from other things you love and disrupt your life. Even in mild cases, this can lead to feelings of unwellness.
  •       Unfair comparisons. Looking around at social media, you might think that everyone is super rich, super beautiful, and living constantly interesting lives. But this is mostly because people rarely post about more mundane things or ugly details of their lives. If you believe you’re inferior to the people all around you, it’s natural to develop depression or anxiety.
  •       The illusion of socialization. Social media gives you the illusion of socialization, connecting you to other people without building family bonds or close friendships. For some people, this leads to isolation – and long-term isolation is never good for your mental health.
  •       Echo chambers. Social media also has an “echo chamber” effect. If you avoid people you disagree with and cling to people you agree with, you’ll eventually create an environment that continuously reinforces your beliefs, even if those beliefs are wrong or unhealthy.
  •       Cyberbullying and more. For younger people especially, cyberbullying is a massive problem. If people are harassing you online, you may feel like no space is safe.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic potentially exacerbated this trend toward greater mental health issues.

  •       Total isolation. Remember, isolation isn’t good for mental health. But many people all over the world were forced to remain almost exclusively within their homes for the better part of a year. And after that, many employers continued allowing employees to work from home.
  •       Disrupted jobs and hobbies. Millions of people were forced to abandon their hobbies and leave their jobs temporarily during the pandemic. This disrupted flow had a massive impact on mental health.
  •       Distorted worldviews. Additionally, COVID-19 was a highly divisive event, with many different communities walking away with different interpretations of what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. Thanks in part to echo chambers, some people are no longer living in an objective reality.

The Appeal of Mental Illness

There’s also a problematic appeal of mental illness, especially among young people. Having a mental illness is sometimes treated as a strange status symbol – a token that makes you special or unique. This is an unhealthy attitude that leads many people to self-diagnose issues that aren’t really there.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that mental illness is increasingly prevalent because of a host of different top-down issues. Rampant social media use, government-sponsored isolation, and a rising appeal of mental illness are just some of the factors to blame. Is this the unintended consequence of societal development? Or is there something more nefarious happening behind the scenes to guide us in this direction?

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