Scrolling Required: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Antidepressant Medication Websites
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The critical discourse analysis of five antidepressant medication websites revealed trends across the study sample, including the use of similar colors that mirror health information websites, the overrepresentation of women visually and positioning of females as the depressed subject more often than males and more often than well, and the use of ethical and emotional appeals. Furthermore, the analysis revealed a “reality” on these websites in which women appear to be depressed more often than men and more at risk for depression and certain anxiety conditions, in which antidepressant medication appears to be the best—or only—treatment option for depression, anxiety, and certain other mental illnesses, and in which medical professionals play a minor role in treating depression and anxiety, with patients being the guiding force in the treatment process. As users discuss the information they encounter on antidepressant medication websites with others in their community (friends, family, medical professionals, etc.), these websites have the potential to influence social reality concerning mental illness and antidepressant medication. Social reality may then affect diagnosis and prescribing trends, given that public perception can influence who chooses to seek treatment, who is expected to need or seek treatment, and whether medication is viewed as a cure-all treatment or one that should be combined with other treatment options, e.g., talk therapy or lifestyle changes. The trends discussed in this thesis and their potential impact on social reality and the medicalization of women point to areas that those who are charged with shaping regulations for DTC advertising on the Web might want to consider, such as guidelines for discussing treatment options on medication product websites or acceptable ratios of males versus females when people are visually portrayed or testimonials are used on medication product websites.