Depression in the Age of Social Media

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of American (ADAA), 40 million adults over the age of 18 suffer from anxiety disorders yearly, accounting for over 18% of the population of the United States. Of these individuals, 16.2 million suffer from depression with at least one major depressive episode. Although medical professionals can successfully treat the condition, less than 37% of people suffering from depression receive treatment. The disease is more common in adult women, but men can also suffer from the ailment.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested that people who have mental illness must often combat the negative image and stigma that is associated with the disease, along with the feeling of isolation and rejection from society. Such rejection is based on the false premise that individuals who suffer from mental illness are difficult to work with, have low levels of intelligence, and are incapable of making decisions. Even with the treatment option, such as medication assisted treatment, because of the stigmatization, individuals often avoid seeking medical attention and receive little assistance in dealing with the condition. Furthermore, depression is a disease that is often paired with other conditions. For example, patients who have cancer, essential tremors, and Parkinson’s, among other conditions, have a higher probability of also suffering from depression. Even if seeking treatment for essential tremors or undergoing chemotherapy to treat cancer, depression is generally left untreated.

These statistics and information on depression are concerning because over half of suicides are from people suffering from major depression. For example, not too long before the writing of this article, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain took his own life. The suicide seems to have stemmed from a lost life-long battle against depression. The troubling aspect is that, by most accounts, Bourdain seemed to have everything going for him. He was rich and famous, and his notoriety provided a platform which helped countless people reach success when the famous chef visited their establishment to feature dishes. The perception seems to be that if someone is rich and famous, then such a person should not be depressed. People make judgments on these false perceptions by wrongly assuming a person’s state of mind based on what is seen in social media.

Experts, however, believe that social media platforms are increasing the cases of depression and have linked extended use of social media with negative mental health cases. Cases of depression are higher in young adults using social media. People, and especially young adults, seem to compare their lives to those of online personalities without understanding that these platforms are not an indication of how people should live their lives as the observations are projections and are not an accurate depiction of anyone’s real life. Moreover, cyberbullies use the platforms to launch attacks on emotionally vulnerable individuals. People often use the anonymity of the internet to hide their identity and write things that such individuals would never say in a face to face situation.

The problem is global and is not limited to the United States. In a report by the Royal Society for Public Health, experts in the United Kingdom determined that the use of social media had negative impacts on people’s self-esteem and body image. This issue is causing young individual to have a false sense of self-worth and places pressure to meet fitness standards that are simply not accurate or realistic. Those suffering from depression caused by these unrealistic standards need to seek assistance and counseling to avoid the consequences of leaving the condition untreated.

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