Do We Pathologize Emotion?
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Health and Wellness

Do We Pathologize Emotion?

Mental health, the author argued, was much less of an issue than we were making it out to be.


I remember reading an article for class last year that discussed how current generations "pathologize emotions". Our true issue was that we have become too sensitive to emotional fluctuation and incapable of handling our own emotions.

He argues that modern reliance on therapy, medication, and other forms of treatment come from a shift in how we define and categorize emotion. His main focuses are sadness and stress, which he believes are too frequently labeled as depression and anxiety. The "normal " range of these emotions are actually much broader than we treat them, he proposes.

I immediately took issue with this argument. First of all, emotion is unique to each person and the capacity to handle or control certain emotions varies greatly among individuals. While I may need two months to grieve, someone else may need a week, while someone else may need a year. There is no such thing as a "normal" range of emotion.

Secondly, the conflation of treatment and pathology is based on the assumption that receiving support makes you "sick." I have other problems with this type of labeling in terms of individual agency and ability, but even aside from that, to say we are wrongly pathologizing emotion is to say that we don't deserve help unless we have a "valid" mental health condition.

There is no level of distress you have to be in before you can ask for help. You do not have to tolerate or push through things that feel emotionally overwhelming. You are deserving of support, even if you feel you do not need it.

The idea that we are turning emotions into illness by over-treating them is ridiculous. We do not organize physical pain on a hierarchy of validity. While a brain injury may be more critical or life-threatening than a headache, the difference does not invalidate the suffering caused by a headache. It simply requires different levels of care. Even amongst individuals, one person may be able to handle a headache throughout the day while another may need to take a painkiller.

You aren't weak for feeling as though you need emotional support. You aren't overreacting. A diagnosed mental health condition is not necessary to seek treatment, and at the same time, a diagnosis does not mean you are ill. It is simply a way to identify and define where you may struggle emotionally or mentally, and to allow professionals to provide you with optimal care.

We aren't pathologizing emotion by acknowledging that emotions can be disabling and difficult. Another person has no right to tell you what you should or shouldn't be able to handle. Ask for help, validate your experience, and acknowledge your needs.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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