Reel life vs real life: romanticizing depression and anxiety

The truth about depression and anxiety.

McKenzie, Editor

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a movie known for its depiction of a main character living with depression and social anxiety disorder; however, it does not accurately represent the disorders. The “mental disorders” portrayed onscreen are merely the struggles of a normal hormonal teenager.

  As someone who struggles with both, having Hollywood and social media misinterpret the disorders ticks me off!

  Look at a typical plot from any movie that deals with teens and depression: the character is introduced with having said mental disorders; the character struggles for a little bit; the character finds someone who loves him or her unconditionally, and miraculously, the character is perfect and free.

  However, that is Hollywood hype. That is not the case with depression and anxiety.

  The Mayo Clinic describes depression as “a mood disorder that causes someone to consistently feel sad and have a loss of interest.” Depression affects how people feel, think, behave, and can cause various emotional and physical problems. Typically, people who suffer from depression only want to lie in bed in a dark room away from everyone. They distance themselves to be alone. Alternatively, when they do get up and try and be positive, they still appear sad and depressed. Because they are.

  It is not something that is cured by finding the love of your life, or just realizing you are happy with yourself as Hollywood portrays; that is called being a normal teenager. Depression is usually treated with medication to increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, alongside constant therapy. The most common medication for both depression and anxiety is Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRI. SSRI works by making sure the serotonin in the brain is not reabsorbed by the neurotransmitters, which is what causes depression.

  Anxiety, as Hollywood sees it, is having moments of doubt, backlash, or hormonal mood swings. Social anxiety, at least on the big screen, is going to a party and distancing yourself from everyone because you do not want to talk. Truth is, that is being a teenager, and in some cases, it is being socially awkward.

  The American Psychological Association describes anxiety as an emotion that is characterized by feelings of tension, worrying and physical changes. People who suffer from anxiety have recurring thoughts or concerns that disrupt their everyday lives. Anxiety is not getting mad at mom and dad, going upstairs and slamming the door while crying and feeling fits of rage. When someone is diagnosed with anxiety disorder, there is a consistent struggle, not just one day of the week. Every day he or she struggles with going about normal life because fear and worry are too strong. The fear of letting people down constantly or that something bad will happen is real. Worrying constantly about not being good enough at even the simplest tasks. The loss of control, fear of the future, illness or even the weather. This anxiety is strong enough to lead a person into depression because he or she is too scared to talk to people, or even be around people.

  Often depression and anxiety are portrayed as something minor, something that all teenagers have, and something that a person should want. That is not the case. Yes, at some point in life, everyone will feel a little bit of anxiety and have little fits of depression, but that is not having depression and anxiety disorder. Yes, teenagers are more often to fall into depression; however, it is a lot more serious than it is portrayed. Thoughts of suicide or self-harm go along with both of these disorders. Hollywood often portrays suicide and self-harm as a way to escape bullying or abuse. In today’s society, both are seen as attention-seeking outlets. Suicide and self-harm brought on by depression and anxiety are a far cry from merely seeking attention. Neither Hollywood nor society show how having anxiety and depression can lead a person into thoughts or actions of suicide and self-harm for no reason other than being mentally depressed and anxious. Aside from having these disorders, nothing else is wrong. They are not bullied or abused, yet they still feel the need to inflict pain on themselves. For anxiety, it is worrying and telling yourself you are not good enough, and you feel the need to hurt yourself, or even to not exist. For depression, it is having a lonesome feeling always surrounding  you to the point where you feel you have no purpose, even if you have amazing friends and family.

  As someone who struggles with a few mental disorders of my own, it is difficult to sit through a movie where a teen character suffers from “depression” for a few days and then is perfectly normal. Depression takes months or even years to be treated, but even then, there are still days depression lurks quiety in the shadows. I find it hard to watch characters who have “anxiety”  but do not have any actual symptoms of anxiety, and the “anxiety” attacks they are having are merely panic attacks because they do not know what to do. Anxiety is a lot more than just worrying what the future will hold; it is worrying, in general. Worrying about almost anything and everything.

  These mental disorders are not something anyone wants to have, or something that is instantly cured by getting everything you want, which is how Hollywood portrays it.

  If you or someone you know is suffering from these disorders, and has thoughts of suicide or self-harm, reach out. Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help. They help with depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide and self-harm.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

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