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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Economics Of Mental Disorders

Will this recession likely be a stimulus for the medical industry?

...we are in the midst of creating what Canadian medical historian Edward Shorter calls a symptom pool for our economic uncertainty: We are debating as a culture which symptoms and feelings we will collectively recognize as legitimate expressions of distress over this particular problem. The idea is that, while our mental issues are totally real, they are often diffuse and hard to explain. So, as we strive to communicate our internal pain, we’re drawn toward describing symptoms that are culturally legitimized. Our unconscious minds, in short, are quick to learn the language of suffering for our given time and place, even if that means adopting symptoms we didn’t notice earlier.

This phenomenon is not new. Researchers have documented that women at the turn of the 20th century commonly reported a specific set of symptoms, including leg paralysis, temporary blindness, and facial tics. These symptoms happened to fit the accepted definition of hysteria. “Patients unconsciously endeavor to produce symptoms that will correspond to the medical diagnostics of the time,” Shorter explains. “This sort of cultural molding of the unconscious happens imperceptibly and follows a large number of cultural cues that patients simply are not aware of.”

The very idea that our socio-political atmosphere essentially causes us to create our own media problems is a fascinating concept. The larger question begs to be asked - which pharmaceutical drug company is going to attempt to make money off of people's anxiety that they may lose their home? And, by extension, will this lead to an new round of interesting excuses to leave work early or ask for paid leave?

But then there's this - if you know that your fears, your apprehensions ( be they based on a realistic template or not ) will be used against you by drug companies in order to turn a profit, will you really be putting that much faith into how dangerous they are or aren't?

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