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Why are we confusing sadness for sickness?

Khloé Kardashian having a brain scan to identify her emotional trauma

There’s growing evidence that long Covid is not a purely “physical phenomenon”, says Gurwinder Bhogal in UnHerd. Studies have found that many of those most affected are people who have previously suffered from anxiety and depression. This is part of a broader phenomenon: the rise in young people reporting “despair and distress”, and diagnosing themselves with everything from autism to gender dysphoria, ADHD and OCD. Why are so many confusing sadness for sickness? One explanation is political. The West has shifted culturally to the left, and a study in 2020 found that liberals aged 18 to 29 were more likely than young conservatives to report suffering “psychological problems”. This is probably because whereas conservatives tend to believe their decisions control their destiny, liberals think their fate is governed by forces beyond their control.

The forces they blame are often societal – “late capitalism, systemic racism, the patriarchy” – but increasingly they are also medical. “Trauma”, for example, has become a “knee-jerk justification” for everything from street crime to silencing opposing views on campus. Compounding all this is the fact that the medical industry profits from “exaggerating the prevalence of mental disorders”. If you’re just sad you can’t be monetised; label it gender dysphoria and companies can sell you puberty blockers and expensive surgeries. The problem is, “imagined sickness can cause real sickness”. That’s the real danger of this “pathologisation pandemic”. It’s a disease “not of any bodily organ but of hope itself”, and it harms its victims by “crippling their immunity to everything else”.