The Ghion Journal

The pathologization of emotion has been on the march for decades, especially in the U.S., where fully one sixth of the adult population takes an antidepressant or other psychiatric drug. But with depression dubiously “conquered” by medication—as both diagnosis rates and suicides are at an all-time high—the mental-health industry has identified yet a new target: loneliness. With pharmaceutical and even technological “cures” in the pipeline for this “condition,” once considered part of normal human emotional experience but now framed as a dire health risk on the level of obesity and smoking, our very ability to think for ourselves hangs in the balance, and if that sounds like hyperbole, read on.

Nearly half of Americans polled last year by health insurer Cigna said they lacked meaningful relationships or companionship, while a third of people in industrialized societies report being lonely. Notably, this state of mind appears to significantly shorten one’s lifespan. A solutions-based society might examine why so many people feel alienated from their peers despite the constant connectivity of smartphones and the internet. A symptom-focused model, however, simply looks to stop them from feeling this loneliness by any means necessary—never mind the cause, and never mind the consequences.

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