Mood Disorders: The Equal Opportunity Destroyer

Mood Disorders: The Equal Opportunity Destroyers

Mood disorders involve abnormally high (energetic, happy or euphoric) or low (low energy, sad and hopeless) feelings, behaviors, and thoughts. Part of the definition of  a mood disorder has to do with how high or low a person’s mood goes and how long it remains in the abnormal extremes. Also, one class of mood disorder is defined by moderate or extreme vacillations between these poles. This vacillating mood disorder is call Bi-Polar Disorder and its extremes are identified as Mania (high) or Depression (low).

Modernity has many advantages, but there are disadvantages too. Alarmingly, mood disorders, particularly depression, appear to be increasing in rates of occurrence in modernizing countries around the world. Why do you think this is might be the case?

You might suspect that many things could contribute to such a trend. Higher rates of sociocultural change can be stressful and alienating. New technological developments were supposed to provide more free time, but they often raise expectations for “multi-tasking” and greater productivity.

Increased mobility erodes social support networks and separates extended and nuclear families from one another. New opportunities for wealth and material possessions also motivates increased work and reduces the time that family members and friends spend together, as well as participation in traditional spiritual activities and rituals. Rapid business evolutions and economic changes can uproot families and remove them from highly supportive and rewarding social environments. The advance of science and technology seems to diminish the attractiveness of religious involvement and this source of community and spiritual support.

The increase in working mothers has led to the increase in use of Day Care, or other paid “baby sitters” , for infants and young children.  This, in turn, can lead to a decrease in family-based child rearing practices resulting in the loss of traditional acculturating influences that produced historically familiar manners, mores, and folkways that supported group cohesion and a sense of belonging.

 High rates of immigration (legal and illegal) of populations from dramatically different cultures and dramatically different religious influences can bring a sense of isolation and alienation to both immigrants and indigenous populations.

A pervasive entertainment media which showcases historically deviant life-styles (beliefs, values, and behaviors) can accelerate the process of traumatically isolating and alienating change within cultures. This process is already far advanced in America.

All of these things, and more, can be implicated in the increase of  psychological disorders in modernizing sociocultures such as America.

There is strong empirical and theoretical support for many of these ideas, but the debate about why virtually all developing societies show increased mental heath problems will go on for a long time.

I will increasingly focus upon numerous psychological disorders that are increasingly prevalent in America. These psychological disorders  are not only harmful to the persons that suffer from them, they are damaging to others who live with (or are in contact with) the afflicted individual. This is because the effects of these psychological disorders can spread from one individual to others via scientifically validated mechanisms.

The term I use for this problem of spreading psychopathology within a population is Behavioral Contagion.  This natural phenomenon is seldom discussed or recognized as a major mechanism in a sociocultures’ decline. But, in my opinion, understanding, predicting, and controlling this ruinous force is essential for America’s avoiding a long, painful, and disastrous decline.

As I continue to focus on various psychological disorders in the weeks to come, I do so because they are in large part preventable. American medicine has learned to prevent many of the causes of massive human suffering and loss within its population, and elsewhere. It is time that America does the same with the causes of massive human suffering in the afflicted and then the spread within our society via the mechanisms of  behavioral contagion.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.    11/25/09

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One Response to “Mood Disorders: The Equal Opportunity Destroyer”

  1. Dianne Says:

    I look forward to more…thank you.


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