The conflicting sides of posting about depression or anxiety

With social media becoming more popular every day, it also becomes a widely used medium for people with mental illness to share experiences on and interact with their peers. They share stories as a form of peer support rather than doing this face-to-face because social media is more accessible, they can reach thousands of people around the world within minutes, so a lot more people can see their experiences in this way. When people see other people going through the same, they can find support in this. They can start to feel connected to those people and belongingness to a group. Moreover, when providing support to each other, they hope to receive support back. In this way, feelings of hope, friendship and encouragement are created, this can help them cope with their mental illness. However, there is a more negative side to this, people can also start to give offensive comments to the people sharing their experiences. This is done more through social media than face-to-face because on social media it is possible to also react anonymously which makes people dare to say more. This of course gives people unsatisfactory feelings and can deteriorate their mental health.

Those positive and negative sides social media can have, are often intertwined with the concepts stigma, medicalization and demedicalization. This means that when people with mental illness seek to provide and receive support they can also increase or reduce stigma or cause (de)medicalization. Stigma can be reduced because when getting support from peers, they can learn to accept or ignore the labels put on them. Stigma can be increased when people are making offensive comments, people with mental illness can lose the feelings of connectedness and belongingness to a group in this way and this makes it more difficult for them to ignore or accept the labels put on them. Furthermore in terms of medicalization, when people are identifying themselves with people who are sharing experiences about mental illness, they can start to think they have the same mental illness because they are experiencing the same. Also, mental illnesses can get more and more attributes due to the shared experiences, in this way the definition of the mental illness changes because it will be constructed differently by society. Moreover, regarding demedicalization, people can start to recognize the medicalization happening and prevent themselves or others from self-diagnosis or self-treatment. Demedicalization also means that people can start to not see their mental illness as a medical issue anymore and cope with it themselves through for example the provided support.

In this research, those mechanisms were analysed for people with depression or anxiety on TikTok. Because of the above described conflicting sides that exist on social media, the exact reasons for people to post about depression or anxiety needed to be discovered. This means that also the responses to those videos were analysed and in the end what conflicting sides came to light in terms of stigma and (de)medicalization.

It became apparent that people with depression or anxiety indeed post on TikTok to provide and receive support. However also a third reason was discovered, they try to raise awareness with their videos as well. In terms of stigma, this meant that stigma could be reduced because when experiences are shared, people can realize the seriousness of those diseases and what they exactly mean. This can lead to certain stereotypes fading away. However, there were also viewers found responding to the video that they started to wonder if they have the displayed mental illness in reality which indicated medicalization. This can also increase stigma because when they identify with the people who are put labels on they can start to think they have the same labels. Lastly, demedicalization was also present because people indeed started to see the people involving themselves in medicalization because of the videos and they tried to prevent those people from doing this in the comments.

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Aandoening Angststoornissen Depressie
Thema Communicatie Stigmatisering
Auteur Yasmin Akrout
Jaar 2022
Publicatie type Scriptie


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