Avedisian, Lindsey M. “Stressed Out”, Boston College, 2010. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/1200.
The purpose of this study is to examine the way(s) that people define and perceive anxiety in light of the dominant discourses about mental illness that permeate America today. Both mental health fields, such as psychology, as well as the pharmaceutical industry have supplied the mental illness discourse that is popular today in the US. Definitions of and treatments for mental illnesses have expanded rapidly over the past several decades. The result is a mental illness discourse that allows almost anyone to be defined as mentally ill and therefore also a candidate for medication. Additionally, this dangerous discourse has been both created and embraced by the people who ordinary Americans look to as authorities on mental illness – doctors and drug companies. The research conducted in this study is intended to address two main questions: First, what are people’s ideas about anxiety? How do they define and identify it? People’s levels of awareness about the topic in general provide insight into the influence that dominant discourses have had (or not had) upon them. Second, do people’s ideas about anxiety mirror the dominant discourse that is presented by mental health fields and the pharmaceutical industry? If the language that people use and treatment options that people seek closely mirror the language and treatment options suggested in the dominant discourse, then mental health fields and the pharmaceutical industry are having a significant influence upon the ways Americans think about mental illness.