Depression is considered a mental illness that often inhibits the daily activities of some poeple. Symptoms of depression include irritable mood most of the time, loss of enjoyment in usual pastimes , difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and issues with concentration. Not being to contribute due to an illness makes one look for a possible solution. In US culture the first solution is often medication. But how often is medication really the best solution? Medication is more easily justified to insurance companies versus expensive therapy sessions which may allow people to discuss possible roots of the problem. We are taught as children to get along with one another bit those with depression sometimes find that they do not enjoy time with others. If there is a medication that you could take to help you in social situations giving an extra boost of confidence that the sufferers need. Depression can have a negative effect of the economy because if you do not find joy in your previous activities then you are not going to continue spending money in sector. For example say you were an avid painter you may decrease the amount of paints you buy. The use of medication adds money into pharmaceutical sector either by the patient directly or insurance coverage.

The commercial I watched was for Abilify an antidepressant that has been placed on the market in recent years.
The ad discusses the experiences that the main character experienced with depression. How he felt withdrawn from his friends and colleagues and friends. This decreased his quality of life. That is to say until he started taking abilify. Afterwards he became much more outgoing and interacting with others. This commercial did not show much of doctor patient interactions but other drug ads I have seen show the relationship as one that is very understanding and supportive. It was interesting to take a more critical look at the commercials that they have for medication advertisements especially towards the end when there is the long list of side effects.


High Cholesterol

I choose to right about the heavy medicalized condition of high cholesterol, this condition is particularly over-medicalized in the U.S. I am not saying that it cannot be a serious medical condition, but the overuse of medications when dealing with high cholesterol, especially only moderately high cholesterol, has made it one of the most heavily medicalized conditions in America. I believe that both cultural and economic factors have played the biggest role in this illness being over-marketed and over-treated with drugs. First, is the issue that culture has played in this, the reluctance of Americans to be responsible for their own health has been a big issue, people want to eat anyway they please and not exercise and then expect biomedical interventions to enhance their lives by keeping their cholesterol low, their blood pressure done, and so forth, without the effort on their parts. I know there are people who live very active lifestyles and still suffer from high cholesterol, but they are in the minority. This condition should not turn to medications first, which is what often happens due to the second major factor in this over-medicalization, the economic business of biomedicine.  Due to the heavy promotion of drugs as the first option when someone has high cholesterol, due to heavy advertisement that permeates the American biomedical culture; doctors often turn to these drugs first, instead of working with the patients to decrease their cholesterol naturally. Also, patients see these advertisements and request these medications from their doctors, thinking this is the best possible way to treat their conditions.

I have included a couple of links to commercials for cholesterol medications. The first includes a link to a Lipitor commercial featuring Dr. Robert Jarvik, the creator of the artificial heart, and at the time this commercial aired it was seen as one of the most dishonest drug ads out there, due to the minimalization of the harmful side effects this drug can cause. One of the advertising strategies used in this advertisement was using Dr. Jarvik as an authority figure and as someone who had access to privileged medical knowledge. It also used him in order to give a sense that it was a patient-doctor interaction, like your doctor talking directly to you, saying you need to ask about this drug. Overall, the commercial tried to present a sleek, modern presentation that was to appeal to consumers, hinting that this drug was the latest and greatest that biomedicine had to offer.

Commercial Sources:

1-      Pfizer. (Producer). (2010). Lipitor tv commercial – robert jarvik. [Web Video]. Retrieved from

2-      Pfizer. (Producer). (2012). Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium) tablets tv commercials. [Web Video]. Retrieved from


I believe obesity is bio-medicalized in the U.S. because the condition of obesity affects many American families at alarming statistic in our culture. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005 to 2008 “over one-third of the adult population of the United States is considered obese. This statistic is overwhelming especially when you factor in that an additional third of the population is classified as being overweight. Some people believe that obesity is also an epidemic in our society. Some of the cultural factors that need to be taken into account of why obesity is an epidemic in American culture is that Americans make and have access to poor eating choices. In our society Americans ‘live a life of convenience and instant gratification”. We do not have to hunt for our food and we can anything we want and when we want it in large consumption as well. Over-processed and fast foods are usually chosen by Americans than healthy and whole foods. Although these foods may save time and are cheaper in the long run they can lead to obesity if too much is consumed daily. Also, many Americans do not get enough of physical activity and to much time is spent on the internet and computer or mobil games. Americans drive instead of walk or run. Our society promotes a more sedentary lifestyle.

Obesity and being overweight are associated with many other health problems for an individual and this has a significant impact on the U.S. health care system according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The medical cost of obesity and being overweight involve indirect and direct costs. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, the medical care costs of obesity in the United States are overwhelming high and in 2008 the cost of obesity has totaled approximately $147 billion dollars. This is quite surprising to me and I really did not believe that the cost of obesity could be so high. Today I would imagine that this estimated cost is higher or close to this amount.

Link to Advertisement for a medication that treats Obesity:



  1. NIH, NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. Available online: icon_pdf.gificon_out.png [PDF-1.25Mb]
  3. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):


Biomedicalization is defined in the lecture as the enhancement of bodies and behaviors through medical interventions. It has become more and more popular in the United States, especially through the media. Medicines and treatments have been developed to treat almost every problem or symptom a human being might face. As the lecture states, “Medicalization scholar Peter Conrad has argued that the greatest social power is the ability to diagnose someone as normal or abnormal…” People were able to gain an explanation, or in some cases, an excuse for their behaviors and a biomedical solution to their problems. One of those problems that has began to grow larger, no pun intended, is obesity. Obesity has become more and more of a problem in the United States over the last few years. Wikipedia defines obesity as “a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health. Leading to reduced life expectancy and/pr increased health problems.”  In our culture we accept this as a biomedical condition that can be treated. Today, the media has a great effect on why we perceive obesity as being biomedicalized. There are countless ads encouraging children to stay active and also TV shows in which the main goal is for the participants to lose as much weight as possible. Many who are obese wish to rid themselves of it by either taking pills or having major surgery done. Politicians have also given their efforts to alleviate the problem by putting restrictions on how food is cooked, like limiting the amount of fat.


Qsymia is a medication used to treat obesity aimed at chronic weight management. There are links to different areas of the website including what the drug is and how it works etc. What caught my eye was the part where it said this should be taken alongside of dieting and exercising.  To me dieting and exercising are the two most important things a person who is obese would want to do. There are lists of side effects that could occur if the pill is taken, and some are pretty serious. You must communicate with your doctor and health care provider before you take this medicine.

Menstruation becoming an illness

Birth control is used by many women as a common form of treatment to menstruation and it’s symptoms. Historically, talking about your period was always considered a taboo thing, even now when you have names like “aunt flow” to describe menstruation is still a sign of keeping the conversation “hush hush.” Over time, it seems due to the lack of conversation, the mixed and different symptoms women experience for their period is a topic of emotional understanding mixed in with confusion. Birth control has become much more accessible due to many women hearing about the symptoms, but not knowing what to do with them. As birth control can have many advantages as well as many disadvantages; each women experiences birth control completely differently.

Beyaz Birth Control ad:

Beyaz is selling a birth control for women specifically with PMDD, and the commercial takes place in a department store where various women are perusing through the shopping aisles. The ad definitely tries to sell a lifestyle, and gives the viewer an option to choose what we want in our lives. More specifically the decision to have a baby or to travel the world in all it’s splendor. The fact that Beyaz is supposed to target women with severe symptoms from menstruation, and that the ads visuals have nothing to do with it’s supposed intent of treatment is bizarre. Not to say that there is anything wrong with that, but the ad definitely takes more of a social stance of how you should live your life as a woman: to conceive or not to conceive? The medical information states that it can help prevent acne, PMDD, and also prevent a rare type of hormone that causes birth defects for babies. It seems that some of the medical information is contradicting in what it’s trying to sell. The idea of lessening symptoms from menstruation or the choice to not have a “healthy baby.” There was no doctor-patient interaction at all through out the ad.


Obesity becomes more and more of a problem in the U.S. everyday, some even saying the condition has reached an epidemic level. Culturally, we live in communities that often do not have access to healthy foods and living the busy lifestlye many Americans live today often resort to fast- food instead. This is where the problems begin; as our youth consumes foods that are often very poor for their health. The government and health professionals all over the country have been trying to inform Americans of the risks associatied with obesity, including things like heart disease and high blood pressure. Biomedically, there are a few options for those suffering from the condition. These options may include changes in diet, surgery, or possibly even medications, such as diet pills. An example of a surgery could include something like gastric “lap” banding.

Although diet pills can be a controversial subject, an example of one brand is “Hydroxycut.” The advertisement I found calls the pill “America’s #1 SELLING Weight- Loss Supplement,” and has a woman posing in a bikini, claiming she lost “42 lbs. With Hydroxycut!” I would consider this advertisement to be a “direct- to- consumer advertisement, where a skinny woman in a bikini is attesting to the product. This is so people will buy the product or switch from another product to theirs. In the U.S, being skinny is a positive attribute, so the image is used to draw people in. She is an atractive woman and when other American women see the picture they think that they should look her. There are two small boxes at the bottom of the advertisement that discuss medical facts, and a quote from a doctor recommending the product after “reviewing the studies of the clinically proven ingredients.” The medical information provided is a graph from the clinical study proving that Hydroxycut has “proven key ingredients” to provide powerful weightloss. The key ingredients of the product are then listed in very small font at the very bottom of the page. Overall, I believe many Americans would believe that Hydroxycut accelerates weightloss, but personally believe they have more of a placebo like effect.





I chose obesity because it is a significant problem all over the world, but especially in the U.S.  It is becoming increasingly biomedicalized within society.  The Conrad article states, “Most medicalization studies focus on how nonmedical problems become defined as medical problems, usually as illness or disorders.”  This is evident in that obesity is no longer just about being overweight.  The condition itself is not considered an illness, but is commonly linked with other concerns such as diabetes, heart problems and other serious health issues.  These obvious health issues combined with societies ever growing obsession with being thin (and finding an easy fix to get there) are main reasons why obesity has become so biomedicalized.  Add to this the increase in portion sizes and decrease in exercise & general activity that has occurred throughout society over the past decades.  Also factoring in that it is far cheaper to eat processed food than healthy, and often times easier, faster, & cheaper to eat fast food.  Most people, unless provided with access to fitness & meal plans(typically common among upper class individuals), are thus unable to compete with what society says is normal/healthy and seek the easiest most attainable way of achieving this – because looking like celebrities is seen as healthy and therefore symbolizing wealth (seemingly gives higher socioeconomic status), and vice versa. The fact that insurance companies cover such quick fixes as surgery and diet pills, and that advertisers make a profit off of these ideals & desires cemented in our culture have helped to catapult obesity to its biomedicalized status in society.

Nowadays, there are so many things that one can do to aid in weight loss, from surgeries, to medication, to diets & nutrition supplements. And so many different types of weight loss supplements out there, with so many different celebrity sponsorships, its hard to go five minutes without somehow being bombarded with information on how to loose weight and/or get the perfect body (preferably with minimal work or change in routine).  I managed to find a couple advertisements, one from Nutrisystem, the other from Weight Watchers (I know there are many more out there). Both use celebrities, Janet Jackson & Jennifer Hudson (both symbolize strong female role models/idols), as spokespeople, talking about their weight struggles and how they’ve overcome them.  This is done to show that even celebrities, seen as perfect, who we idolize are human, and have their imperfections. These imperfections, which they have ‘struggled’ with allows for a connection to the intended audience, suggesting ‘if I can loose weight so can you’.  Also, both suggest no need to change eating habits or daily routines, which is key in selling diet aids in our culture, filled with busy & lazy people.  Another key point used in both these ads, is that although both women are popular among many, they are both symbols for black women to relate to, expanding audiences, and opening doors for the advertisers to make even more money.  Another example of this expansion of audiences are the recent Weight Watchers commercials starring Charles Barkley, relating to & advertising for mens weight loss (even when dressed in drag – )

These mention nothing of doctor patient interactions, or any other medical information, but are more focused on self improvement.  This is to be expected with the way obesity is viewed, particularly in our society. Also with our cultural obsession of thinness, which should ideally be on health instead, no matter what size you may be.




I chose depression as a condition that has been over medicalized in our society because it is something that I can relate to having been diagnosed with depression/anxiety two years ago.  For a long period of time I didn’t recognize the symptoms and I finally lost control and hit rock bottom.  Just receiving a diagnosis made a huge difference for me and I understand how people suffering with depression would want something that is just going to fix the problem.  Personally I am not one that thinks a pill is the answer to everything.  I worked with a doctor to get to the under lying causes and we formed a course of “treatment” that would work long term instead of taking an anti-depressant.  This is another reason that I feel depression is over medicalized.  I feel that having so many advertisements for anti-depressant medications everywhere has increased the amount of people being prescribed.  I’m sure that before anti-depressants, depression was treated successfully with other methods.  A pill is not going to treat the underlying cause of a person’s depression.  Now they have drugs that work with anti-depressants if people still aren’t getting full relief from their symptoms with one prescription.

In this commercial they personify depression as being a hole, a balloon, a ball and chain, etc. It is always following her around.  The patient in the video is a woman, which makes sense because a majority of people suffering with depression are women.  They introduce the doctor into the advertisement by having him “help” the woman out of the hole.  He puts on a video for her that tells her how Abilify can help her as well as the possible side effects. After her meeting with her doctor, she is shown enjoying herself with her family, stating that her depression used to define her and after starting Abilify she “feels better”.

Sleeping Disorders or Problems

I chose to look up sleeping problems and the use of prescription sleeping pills. I think it is an extremely medicalized issue in our society. Culturally we all wish we had more hours in each day and live busy and high stress lives. These are common causes for interrupted sleeping or inability to fall asleep. There is big money in pharmaceuticals to help people improve the amount of sleep they receive each night. It has become a “norm” to pop a sleeping pill to go to sleep. Some of the reasons one might use these drugs is during high stress times and travel, but if used for chronic sleep loss or insomnia it is suggested that you consult your doctor. (Mayo Clinic) Ultimately the doctor will try to identify the reasons for your difficulty sleeping.

In the article I read it stated that between thirty and fifty percent of people are using sleep aids or pills at some point. Many of these drugs especially the benzodiazepines are highly addicted. I unfortunately know someone who started taking these to relieve anxiety and sleep and would then take Adderall to wake up and be productive. The cycle would repeat and would take a sleeping pill to counter act the effects of the Adderall. Now this may not be the story for everyone it is possible with the addictive qualities of these drugs. Another example of the problems these pills can create is Heath Ledger and his eventual death following the filming of Batman. The obsession with 5-hour energy is another topic that I could go on about for days but we’ll stick to sleep aids.


The link that follows is commercial for Ambien CR.



Advertising Strategies: The commercial is pretty simple and they use a relatable scenario. Everyone has felt drowsy and unproductive at work following a night of little sleep. They also use a very common looking woman. This allows the viewer to relate and start to see themselves taking the drug.

Cultural values and Social Roles: This commercial portrays the use of these drugs as social acceptable and a common practice. This scenario seems very normal. This shows a normal worker in need of sleep.


At the end of the commercial all the side effects and warnings are listed. The list of problems that is read off accounts for about seventy five percent of the commercial. There are severe side effects including

Minor side effects: Dizziness; drowsiness (including daytime drowsiness); “drugged” feeling; dry mouth; headache; muscle aches; nausea; nose or throat irritation; sluggishness; stomach upset; weakness


Major Side effects: Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the hands, legs, mouth, face, lips, eyes, throat, or tongue; throat closing; unusual hoarseness); abnormal thinking; behavior changes; chest pain; confusion; decreased coordination; difficulty swallowing or breathing; fainting; fast or irregular heartbeat; hallucinations; memory problems (eg, memory loss); mental or mood changes (eg, aggression, agitation, anxiety); new or worsening depression; severe dizziness; shortness of breath; suicidal thoughts or actions; vision changes.


They do say to contact a doctor if you experience severe symptoms or side effects. Well thank god for that warning. The most shocking side effects is possible sleep walking, eating, or driving.


Just like our Pill Poppers video said if the benefits do not outweigh the side effects maybe we should reconsider taking these pills.



1) First, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has been medicalized in U.S. culture in order to broaden the audience to which drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall can be marketed. Defining ADHD as a permanent condition amplifies profits margins for the pharmaceutical firms such as Ciba-Geigy and other fiscally invested parties. In addition to this economic incentive, the social climate has engendered diagnostic expansion because ADHD enables the medicalization of underperformance and access to legal disability remuneration as well as academic and occupational accommodations. Also, given the ‘pill for every ill’ mentality that the pharmaceutical revolution has produced, symptoms of inattention and distraction are prime candidates for medicalization in the form of ADHD because of “the American public’s decreasing tolerance for mild symptoms and benign problems” and a shift away from psychotherapy in managed care (Conrad, 2000). In the post-Prozac era, the medicalization of ADHD also reflects “the idea that designer drugs might improve the functioning of most anyone” (Conrad, 2000). Furthermore, individual sufferers, self-help and lay advocacy groups themselves motivated the expansion of the ADHD category to adults, since it legitimizes their woes, allows them to embrace a new social identity, and transforms diffuse and ambiguous symptoms into a meaningful illness label. This domain expansion is also understandable in the context of a sociocultural movement to engage individuals more actively in health care delivery, demanding patients be involved agents in the medical decision-making process.

In addition, psychiatric professionals and clinicians also played a hand at medicalizing ADHD, as evidenced by the transformation of DSM categorizations that enabled symptoms to manifest in adulthood. For example, with successive editions, less emphasis was placed on age as a criterion: “‘Frequently calls out in class’…became ‘often blurts out answers to questions before they have been completed” (Conrad, 2000). In effect, definitions were adapted to encompass adult hyperactives, casting a wider net such that more people fell under the rubric of ADHD. Media claims and publications by intellectuals, such as Frank Wolkenberg, also facilitated the medicalization of ADHD (Conrad, 2000). By catapulting into the public spotlight testimony from someone who identified signs of ADHD retrospectively, people could reframe their childhoods to reconcile with a diagnosis of ADHD. Moreover, ADHD was given evolutionary credence when academic Thom Hartmann associated the condition with the transition from nomadic hunting societies to sedentary agricultural societies (Conrad, 2000). By the same token, ADHD was made fashionable and de-stigmatized with confessions by scholars who were afflicted, and speculations that revered figures such as Albert Einstein and Bill Clinton had the disorder (Conrad, 2000).

2) In this advertisement, the company appeals to parents’ ambitions to have a healthy, successful child capable of academic achievement and assimilation into the social milieu. Specifically, the advertising strategy plays on parental fears of their child’s learning disability causing insecurity and self-doubt with regard to scholastic performance (the antagonist) by juxtaposing this with the vision of a happy, secure child seizing the day (the protagonist). Improved concentration and attention is portrayed as a commodity to be gained by investing in Adderall. Cultural valuation of education is demonstrated with the heading, “Soar Confidently into Summer and the New School Year: Try Adderall – It May Make a Difference,” with dramatic words like “soar” capturing the notion of skyrocketing grades resulting from their drug. It also capitalizes on a parent’s social role as the caretaker and provider of resources and opportunity for their child by encouraging the parent to have their child try Adderall in the summer time when parental care is maximal. This can also be interpreted as the company’s customer-oriented stance, as they are considering the most convenient time for the medication to be employed. By the same token, the ad conveys that a parent should be proactive in health management decisions, alluding to notions of patient empowerment. Doctor-patient interactions are addressed by stating that Adderall should only be administered “with close physician supervision,” which also communicates a collaborative rather than a commandeering relationship between practitioner and patient.  As direct-to-consumer advertising, the company presents medical information in a jargon accessible to layman understanding, purports benefits of switching from existing brands (ie. “It May Make a Difference”), and emphasizes Adderall’s unique chemical formula (“the only ADHD product available that contains both dextro and levo amphetamine”).  Side effects are downplayed by using phrases such as “possibility of,” “potential for,” and “rare cases”. Furthermore, attention is diverted away from their specific product by introducing side effects with blanket statements referring to the class of drugs, including, “As with most psychostimulants…” whereas with benefits they called the drug by its brand name. ­­­­


Conrad, P. & Potter, D. (2000). From Hyperactive Children to ADHD Adults: Observations of the Expansion of Medical Categories. Social Problems, 47(4): 559-582.

BLTC. (1995). Amphetamines and other Psychostimulants. BLTC Research. 3 August 2012. Retrieved from