In most modern societies in the West, we find very high prevalence numbers for many psychiatric disorders. About 50 percent of the population live up to the criteria for at least one psychiatric diagnosis in a lifetime perspective, and around 25 percent will do so in the course of one year. Such statistics have been known for years, but there is much uncertainty about how to interpret them: Are they signs of genuine epidemics of depression and ADHD, for example? Or do they tell us that we are witnessing massive processes of pathologization of normal human phenomena? Or are both things happening simultaneously?
This project seeks an answer to these questions by focusing on depression and ADHD in the adult population. These disorders have significant similarities (both are treated pharmacologically and are much debated in the public), but they are also quite different from each other (e.g. concerning gender, age and core symptoms). We will study:
- How adults experience the process of receiving these diagnoses, and what it means for them to have their experience of suffering filtered through a diagnostic and psychiatric vocabulary
- How depression and ADHD are constituted in public discussions in media, films and television
- How these diagnostic categories have emerged and developed historically to become influential in many people’s self-understanding.
By looking at the phenomena from several angles at the same time, we hope to be able to chart an expanding diagnostic culture and thereby contribute to the current discussion about psychiatric diagnoses.