Medicalising our lives has become an addiction
HUMAN problems, nuance and variations are not always medical ailments.
In the latest version of its disease classification manual, the World Health Organisation has officially classified gaming addiction as a mental health disorder.
But while the decision was no doubt well intentioned, evidence about how to definitively diagnose video game addictions is hard to pin down.
Some say half of all gamers are addicted. Others say it is less than one per cent. It is yet another undesirable but affirmed condition for the bulging basket of pathologised behaviours.
A person really likes gaming, or exercising, or reading may well be addicted, but do they suffer from a disorder? Surely only those whose lives are being harmed by it, and they are a tiny handful.
One thing we do seem addicted to is medicalising our lives. What is normal but uncomfortable becomes atypical and needs a doctor to assess it.
We seek medical affirmation of sickness rather than assurance that not all sicknesses, life stages or conditions are here to stay.
The tendency for people to go to the doctor with a sniffle and consider the doctor deficient if they do not leave gripping an antibiotics prescription has spilt into our approach to mental wellness.
Science and common sense both find that medicalising behaviours is unhelpful.
Regular ebb and flow of conditions and circumstances in life have become reason for intervention, for fixing, for band-aiding.
It starts young. A child is having a hard time at school, is acting out or seems blue.
It does not take long for anxiety, depression or ADHD to be mentioned - and with lightning speed comes suggestions of medication.
The acceptance that so many of our children are dosed and numbed is frightening.
Cotton wool kids are now having the stuffing placed around so as to silence them. It is a broadscale tragedy, surely.
Sadly, to say so is viewed as lacking understanding or compassion.
To suggest behaviour modification, supporting kids to deal with their life's knocks and to implement a little tough love instead of medical intervention is to be naive and old-school.
An article in the journal Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health last year found overdiagnosis was the reason for the increasing prevalence of mental health disorders in young people in developed countries rather than real crises.
Children are now being diagnosed with disorders, where once their oddities were viewed simply as uncomfortable stages of development.
A naughty, frustrated or recalcitrant child is now slapped with a recognised medical label: Conduct Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Good grief.
The problem with medicalising a condition or circumstance - such as obesity or OCD - lets individuals off the hook, framing it as if it is out of their control and in the hands of doctors.
It is normal for humans to be angry, depressed or anxious sometimes. It doesn't mean it is a disorder and working through it is part of building resilience.
Yet it is increasingly common to take normal, temporary human conditions and somehow embrace them as disorders that need treatment.
Similarly, the numbers of slightly older but still young people turning to cut-price breast augmentation and facial fillers - and boasting about it on Instagram - is startling.
As exposed on ABC's Four Corners this week, risk-taking behaviours that are part of youth are seemingly now extended to the surgical table.
Bodies that are still a work in progress are being plumped and carved, transformed in an instant with needle and scalpel instead of incremental change created by moving, eating and sleeping well.
In the 1970s and 1980s, diet pills were all the rage, but this is taking body shaping to a whole new, Frankenstein level.
Cosmetic enhancement is discussed openly among the young, embraced and boasted about.
Children's ears are being pinned back. Slightly skewed teeth are made perfectly straight. Their bodies are being manicured and trained, like plants.
The pressure to be internally and externally faultless is crushing.
In The Medicalization of Society, Dr Peter Conrad found that medicalising behaviours was accelerating and the trend has massive implications for society in all ways, including productivity, the healthcare burden and collective wellbeing.
Life can be rough, but humans are built for struggle. But we have to be allowed to get practice to be able to endure and grow.
And there is no pill for that.
Dr Jane Fynes-Clinton is a journalist and lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast.