Having spent a considerable chunk of my working life with a multinational drug company, I'm not one to usually bag them, but the following item on the ABC's "World Today" programme caught my attention.
A Professor of Medicine was commenting on the insidious practice of drug companies surreptitiously planting material on "new diseases" in the general news media. These are ordinary human characteristics which they characterise as disorders which can be treated with a drug.
It appears a medical team, somewhat peeved by this practice, enlisted the co-operation of the prestigious British Medical Journal to plant a story which actually went to print on April Fool's Day.
They listed their research credentials etc and described a new disorder called "Motivational Deficiency Disorder" and said the symptoms were "an overwhelming and disabling deficiency of motivation" and happily reported that they had a new drug to counteract this dreaded scourge.
What they were describing was simply apathy.
The quoted a website where details of the new treatment could be found and by the next day it had received 15,000 hits!!!
This is even more worrying if you consider that the readers of the BMJ would usually be considered to be a little more discerning than the readers of New Idea or the Women's Weekly. It didn't appear to occur to anyone that it had anything to do with it being 1st April.
Whilst this is an amusing story, it nonetheless illustrates our increasing tendency to "pathologise" every human frailty. We shouldn't expect to tolerate or work through anxiety - much better to take a pill to just mask it:
likewise depression - there are of course cases of severe clinical depression which do need pharmacological treatment, but often it is a perfectly normal response to a sad or difficult situation. I am increasingly disturbed at the number of really young children taking antidepressants, sometimes in conjunction with medication for ADHD .
Also the whole phenomenon of depression can become a self fulfilling prophecy - we are constantly being told how stressed we are, how happiness is beyond our reach, and if we so much as trip over a rough piece of footpath we are offered counselling.
Imo there was quite a deal to be said for the old fashioned notion that happens: accept it and get over it.