It is estimated that 400 million people today have mental or neurological disorders or suffer from psychosocial problems. According to experts, these diseases, from depression to epilepsy, have become the second leading cause of death and disability.
“No to exclusion – Yes to care” is the slogan of the day of the World Health Organization (WHO), whose report on health in the world was devoted to mental health.
It seems as if Americans are in the midst of an epidemic of mental illness, at least judging by the growing number of people in treatment. The number of those who are disabled enough by mental illness to be eligible to collect “Social Security Disability” (SSIDI) or “Supplemental Security Income” (SSI) grew almost two and a half times in the midst of 1987 and 2007 – from one in 184 Americans to one in 76.
Among children, the increase is even more striking, a 35-fold increase in the same two eras. Mental sickness is now the principal cause of disability in children, far ahead of physical disabilities like Down syndrome or cerebral palsy, for which federal programs were created.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) funded a study, conducted between 2001 and 2003, with a large sample of randomly selected adults, where it was documented that an impressive 46% met the criteria customary by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to classify them like that at some point in their lives they had been affected by one of the four major categories of mental illness.
These categories were:
- Anxiety disorders, such as phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Impulse control disorders, including behavior problems, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Mood disorders comprising bipolar disorder and major depression.
- Substance use disorder, including alcohol and drug abuse.
Most met the standards for more than one diagnosis. A study of an affected subgroup throughout the year leading up to the survey revealed that a third were under treatment, compared to a fifth in a similar review conducted ten years earlier.
Use of drugs in treating mental illnesses.
In these times, medical treatment almost always means the use of psychotropic drugs. These are drugs that affect the mental state. In fact, most psychiatrists treat only with medications and refer their patients to the psychologist or social worker only if they believe that psychotherapy is warranted.
The shift from “therapy by the word” to drugs as the dominant mode of treatment coincides with the emergence in the past four decades of the theory that chemical imbalance is the primary cause of mental illness, which we can treat with specific drugs.
This theory has been widely accepted, both by the media and the public and by the medical profession, after Prozac (fluoxetine) was marketed in 1987 or intensively promoted as a corrector of a serotonin deficiency in the brain. The total figure of people getting treatment for depression tripled in the next ten years, and approximately 10% of US citizens age six and older are now taking antidepressants.
The growth in the use of drugs to treat mental illness is even more intense. The new origination of antipsychotics, such as Risperdal (risperidone), Zyprexa (olanzapine), and Seroquel (quetiapine), have displaced cholesterol-lowering agents as the best-selling class of drugs in the USA.
Significant increase in psychological disorders in the United States.
“Mental illnesses are on the rise, suicides are on the rise, and access to psychiatric care is deteriorating.” This grim picture of the US is one portrayed by Judith Weissman, a researcher at the Langone Medical Center at NYU (New York University), in a study published in the journal Psychiatric Services.
The survey reveals, in particular, that more than 8.3 million Americans have significant psychological disorders. A record. 3.4% of the population are victims of depression, stress, or anxiety, which require medical follow-up. Ten years back, the ratio was only 3%.
The study is based on the records of 35,000 households – or 200,000 individuals – participating each year in the survey conducted by centers for prevention and control of the disease throughout the United States. Respondents are asked to describe their mental state concerning six feelings: sadness, feeling worthless, not being able to exert any effort, nervousness, feeling restless, and exhausted.
The deterioration of the situation could be linked to the financial crisis of 2008, which would have caused emotional damage in the long term on the most fragile populations, says Dr. Weissman. “The recession seems to have driven the mentally ill to a point where they never get better. This finding is very worrying because of the consequences that mental illness can have on a person in terms of quality of life and life expectancy. “
The study, which covers the period 2006-2014, insists that a significant proportion of individuals psychologically affected by the Great Depression were unable to obtain the care they needed. Either because ‘they could not afford it, either because their mental state did not allow them to find solutions. Economic downgrading can lead to isolation from one’s community, which complicates medical care.
Mental and neurological disorders: 400 million patients.
Although attention has been drawn to these conditions, there is still a long way to go. Depression is presently the second foremost cause of death and disability in the world.
Men and women are not equal when it comes to depression. Women are more than twofold as likely to experience it in their lifetime. This disease effects, on average, one in five women and “only” one in ten men.
In addition, depression, which affects 340 million people worldwide, can appear several times in a lifetime. Stressful city life is driving these numbers up.
Although treatments, effective in the vast majority of cases, only a small number of these conditions are properly diagnosed. Suitable treatment of depression would consequently lead to a reduction in the number of suicides.
More and more sick.
Furthermore, we are, in fact, more and more “sick.” In the United States, the high prevalence of mental disorders is not only the result of advances in medicine. We are more affected by these disorders than previous generations, and they manifest themselves earlier in our lives.
A study supports this explanation: researchers looked at the results of an anxiety assessment in children with psychological disorders in 1957 and then compared them to the results obtained in children today. And the latter (not necessarily those diagnosed with a psychological problem, unlike those of 1957) are more anxious than those of previous generations.
Another study compared cohorts of adult Americans—point of comparison: “neuroticism, ” an indicator of emotional responsiveness associated with anxiety. Adults in 1993 were more affected by neuroticism than those in 1963, suggesting that anxiety is growing in the heart of the American population.
A third study compared the degree of narcissism among cohorts of American students between 1982 and 2006. The researchers found that the more recent cohorts exhibited greater narcissism.
A companion study supports the theory that the increase in diagnoses is indeed explained by an increase in cases of mental disorders. The more recent an American’s date of birth, the more likely he or she is to develop mental illness. This line of research seems to specify that the advances made in detection alone are not sufficient to explain the increase in the rates of psychological disorders.
If the number of disorders is increasing, it is because certain “problems” (which were previously not considered as mental illnesses) are classified as such when entering the DSM (American diagnostic and statistical manual) – and it is the DSM which (functionally speaking) defines mental illness in the United States.
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