Depressed or ‘Just Unhappy?’

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Medicalisation – Depressed or ‘Just Unhappy?’

I see many people who come to me who have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, and who are receiving medication for it. In almost all cases, in my opinion, (and I am not a Doctor), they are neither depressed, nor are they suffering from an anxiety disorder – they are simply unhappy! There is an enormous difference between clinical depression and unhappiness, and yet, for many, they are being treated the same. Let’s talk a little for a moment about a term called ‘Medicalisation.’

The phrase ‘medicalisation’ was coined in the 1970’s. It’s where the medical profession place a label on almost anything and call it an illness, whether it is caused by actual disease, by lifestyle choices, or by natural biology. Experts, such as Illich (1976) condemn medicalisation, saying that people are able to disassociate themselves from their own responsibility regarding illness, shifting both the blame and the responsibility to ‘fix’ it onto the medical profession. He states that, “As long as disease is something that people … ‘catch’ or ‘get’, the victims of these natural processes can be exempted from responsibility for their condition” (Illick, 1975, p34). He also suggests that the power of the medical profession and medicalisation “disables people from coping with their environment” (Illich, 1975, p30). What does this mean? It means that people look at their anti-depressant pills and decide that there is nothing that they can do other than to take the pills. It disempowers, it undermines, and it creates a surrender to the condition called, ‘unhappy.’

Some experts agree, suggesting that medicine and modern health care have “undermined people’s capacity to deal with their own health and illness” (Zola, 1972, p487). I agree totally. My clients come to me with their diagnosis and are convinced that they are suffering from depression. In almost all cases, it is their life, life-style and/or environment that is not working for them, and they are simply reacting to the resulting unhappiness of that life – and they feel helpless to change it. Being given anti-depressants, in my opinion, simply adds to the depression, because they feel even more helpless than they did before! Other experts, such as Horwitz & Wakefield (2007) suggest that psychiatry has transformed normal sadness into a depressive disorder. It has! For example, the natural personality trait of shyness is now been labelled, under psychiatry, as an anxiety disorder, (Lane, 2007). I have several clients who are naturally shy, and they too, have been diagnosed with anxiety. What’s wrong with being shy? It’s a natural personality trait, a natural characteristic!

I work with my clients helping them to take responsibility for their ‘depression,’ by examining their life-choices and life-styles as the possible cause of their depression (unhappiness), and to help them find a better way to live. We look at choices, priorities, options, and more. We also look at underlying unhappiness from their past, which often has a cumulative, knock-on effect. We also examine personality traits like shyness and allow and encourage self-acceptance of who they are as people, and we celebrate their individuality. We can’t all be party animals you know! The results speak for themselves – in nearly all cases, my clients are back in control of their life and off to their Doctor to come off their meds within a few weeks. (Disclaimer coming… always check with your doctor.)

If you, too, have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, have a look at your life. Are you in the wrong job, the wrong relationship, the wrong house, or the wrong location? Are you overcommitted financially and struggling to keep your head above water? Is it your life that doesn’t work, or are you truly depressed? If it’s your life, see that there are options – there always are you know! It’s just a matter of priorities, and isn’t your health and wellbeing a priority? I think it is.


Julie Poole is a Consultant Hypnotherapist specialising in treating people with depression and anxiety, trauma and stress.




Horwitz, A & Wakefield, J (2007). The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry has Transformed Normal Sadness into Depressive Disorder. Oxford. Oxford University Press.

Illich, I. (1976). Limits to Medicine: Medical Nemesis.  New York: Pantheon, 30, 41.

Illich, I. (1975). The medicalization of life. Journal of Medical Ethics. 1 (2): 73–77.

Lane, C. (2007). Shyness: How Normal Behaviour Became a Sickness. Yale University Press.

Zola, I. (1972). Medicine as an institution of social control. The sociological review, 20(4), 487-504.

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