Katy Waldman in The New Yorker:
First, let’s survey the situation. It’s as though the haze of our inner lives were being filtered through a screen of therapy work sheets. If we are especially online, or roaming the worlds of friendship, wellness, activism, or romance, we must consider when we are centering ourselves or setting boundaries, sitting with our discomfort or being present. We “just want to name” a dynamic. We joke about our coping mechanisms, codependent relationships, and avoidant attachment styles. We practice self-care and shun “toxic” acquaintances. We project and decathect; we are triggered, we say wryly, adding that we dislike the word; we catastrophize, ruminate, press on the wound, process. We feel seen and we feel heard, or we feel unseen and we feel unheard, or we feel heard but not listened to, not actively. We diagnose and receive diagnoses: O.C.D., A.D.H.D., generalized anxiety disorder, depression. We’re enmeshed, fragile. Our emotional labor is grinding us down. We’re doing the work. We need to do the work.
Around every corner, trauma, like the unwanted prize at the bottom of a cereal box. The trauma of puberty, of difference, of academia, of women’s clothing. When I asked Twitter whether the word’s mainstreaming was productive, I was struck by two replies. First, overapplying the term might dilute its meaning, robbing “people who have experienced legitimate trauma of language that is already oftentimes too thin.” And, second, invoking “trauma” where “harm” might suffice could play into the hands of “people who despise and fear vulnerability.” During this exchange, Twitter served me an advertisement that urged me to “understand my trauma” by purchasing a yoga membership. Ridiculous, I thought. I’m not a sexual-assault survivor. I’ve never been to a war zone. But, countered my brain, after four years of Trump and four seasons of covid, are you not hurting? The earth is dying. Your mother issues! Your daddy issues! A clammy wave engulfed me. My cursor hovered over the banner.
Perhaps the language of mental health is burgeoning because actual mental health is declining.