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Nancy Schimelpfening

Are Too Many People Being Diagnosed With Depression?

By August 21, 2007

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Too many people are being diagnosed with depression when all they really are is unhappy, says Australian psychiatrist Professor Gordon Parker.

In an article in the British Medical Journal, Parker claims that the current threshold for what is considered clinical depression is too low.

Parker conducted a study which included 242 teachers who were followed for a period of fifteen years. During that time, more than three-quarters of them were found to meet the criteria for clinical depression. These criteria include having a "low mood'' for more than two weeks combined with appetite change, sleep disturbance, drop in libido and fatigue.

Parker says that having such a low threshold for diagnosing clinical depression creates the risk of taking the normal ups and downs of living and treating them as an illness. He argues that treating these individuals will not be effective because there is nothing wrong with them.

I tend to agree with the professor's statement. Occasionally feeling sad in response to your circumstances is a normal part of living. Emotional pain can be a signal that we need to make some changes in our lives. If you touch a hot pan and get burned, do you take a painkiller to deaden the pain or do you learn from your mistake and use a potholder next time? By medicalizing normal emotions we take the emphasis off finding solutions for our problems and put it on taking a pill so we don't feel bad anymore. Taking a pill might be easier, but is it the most sensible approach?

August 22, 2007 at 4:54 am
(1) David John Tricker says:

I have found that not only is it over-diagnosed, mainly because not enough thought has been put into it because of the time facter but whether or not it would effect other medication the patient already takes. IE. what was presribed to myself effecting the anti convultion I was already taking. Not only did it worsen my depression and it took over ten years to finally realise I was suffering with P.T.S.D. which intern created Psedio seizures but exacerbated my Temporal lobe epilepsy. enough

August 22, 2007 at 8:29 am
(2) Alex says:

Yes, I think that depression is over diagnosed. I have experienced it myself. Firstly I was diagnosed with depression and had been given the full shock treatment, then I was diagnosed as manic-depressive and given Lithium to stabilise the system. That resulted in my kidneys being poisoned, and a total loss of my perfect pitch for singing. Lastly I have been treated with Epilim as a replacement of lithium. But that clashes with aspirin. So if you have a heart problem Epilim is problematic. The low dose of Epilim seem to have stabilised my ‘mood swings’ until I decided to ditch it and try 10 minutes of sunshine a day for nothing. Guess what, I am better now than ever before my problems. My perfect pitch has come back and I seem to be perfectly normal.

For more info on Natural Mood Elevators Google http://ncnc.essortment.com/moodelevators_rhtq.htm

August 22, 2007 at 8:59 am
(3) Barbara says:

I agree. We Americans especially think there is something wrong if we are unhappy. I’ve been off meds (took one antidepressant for five years) for two years now, and I am so much better off with just monthly B12 injections. However, in all fairness to those who are truly clinically depressed (and I initially was), if a person is suicidal and/or can’t function for more than 2-4 weeks — a person needs professional help ASAP.

August 22, 2007 at 11:18 am
(4) Heather says:

I think the only reason that they “over-diagnose” Americans is to benefit the drug companies.

August 22, 2007 at 12:16 pm
(5) william says:

Duh! it’s the same as feeding kids ritalin for being kids.
Too many pharma co. guys make too much money and so many people want easy answers.
This one’s a no brainer.

August 22, 2007 at 12:31 pm
(6) chris says:

I don’t really know if it is over diagnosed or not. But for me I was lucky to be diagnosed. I have severe depression and also anxiety that can make me stay inside for months at a time. It has been controlled with medication for about 21 years now.
I have been on a variety of meds and some work better than others. I’ve been hospitilized twice due to suicidal tendencies and actual over doses. I also went through a couple years of cutting.
If I didn’t finally get help I would not be here now. All I know is that if people start minimizing depression again there will be many people not willing to get help for it.
there is still a stigma for people with mental health issues and for that reason many do not go for the help they need. I think if people need the help they should get it.

August 22, 2007 at 2:22 pm
(7) Billie says:

It is definitely over-diagnosed. And, I sure wish SOMEBODY, FDA, whoever, would address the issue of what happens when a person that does NOT really have a biological problem, is prescribed SSRIs or other antidepressants. I certainly can’t get a straight answer from a doctor – that’s when they hide behind the old non-committal “We just don’t know HOW these drugs work”. In the 90′s, every time you turned around someone was diagnosed with depression and prescribed medication. In the following decade, everytime you turn around, someone is diagnosed as bipolar. Am I the only one that questions this? Does anyone wonder about these brain altering drugs, that pharmaceuticals and prescribing doctors admit no real understanding of?

August 22, 2007 at 5:55 pm
(8) Dawn says:

Look in the jails. See all the people who are their because they have a disease of mental illness and have committed some petty crime so the police are tired of dealing with them. There is no where for an indigent mentally ill person except jail. Criminalization of the mentally is its name tag. Those are UNDER-diagnosed, about the ones in their nice safe homes “sick” I just don’t know.

August 22, 2007 at 5:55 pm
(9) Cherith says:

This question really made me think. I’ve been a mental health consumer for 20+ years, and I have strong feelings for both sides of the argument.

I agree that it’s a little too easy to just take a pill so that we don’t have to “feel.” I have found doctors to write a prescription to quickly, not only for depression, but other problems too.

When you’re going through a real rough time in your life that has you dragging for more than 2 weeks, your sleeping & eating patterns have changed, etc., I do believe that going on an anti-depressant for short-term treatment does have benefits. When you get depressed and it lingers, the chemicals in your brain do start to change. That is what many people seem to miss. Clinical Depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, just like diabetes is a result on your body either not producing or not absorbing insulin. Many times when we get depressed we have a difficult time trying to work-out our feelings. Taking an anti-depressant for a short amount of time can often lift the fog so that we can deal with the emotions attached.

I could probably go on and on, but I’ll stop here. This question was really quite interesting, and caused me to think alot.

August 22, 2007 at 7:20 pm
(10) AnnieQ says:

I do not think people are being over diagnosed with depression. I think we live in such a fast pace world that we as a person are not able to relax and enjoy life, get caught up on are sleep or fully recover when we are sick. Hospitals make us check out earlier due to insurance companies. verything is go, go, go. I be depressed too. JMO

August 22, 2007 at 10:33 pm
(11) Jeanette says:

Yes, it has got to the place where almost everyone I know is on zoloft, prozac and on and on….come on people….surely there are SOME people out there who are not depressed….and believe me, I am no exception…I have “suffered” with anxiety and panic attacks, for 7 yrs now….but I can trace it all back to life experences and keeping it all bottled up inside and things like that….pills?? They act as a band aide to cover the problem…but it does not cure it!! Wish it did…..I think we as a Nation are ruining our bodies taking tons of pills for everything from ingrown toenails to a bad hair day~Nothing helps me more than a day with a good friend and talk and visit and help out at the nursing home where my Mom is a resident……they are all very understaffed and the folks there love the much needed attention they get from someone setting and giving one on one attention…….things like this helps me more than all the anti depressent pills I ever took…and believe me there were many….I just thought there must be more to life than a handfull of pills…and you gotta admit….somebody is making BIG money off all these pills!!!

August 23, 2007 at 11:12 am
(12) Sujata Vaidya says:

Depression is a teacher if seen in the right perspective.
People may actually be depressed, but medication is NOT the answer in more than 20% cases. 80% are given unwarrented drug medication. I think it is an escapist attitude both of the Doctor to give quick-fix results and more so on the part of the patient lazy not to find a better solution.
Most of the persons on medication are warned of dire consequences of withdrawal symptoms; those who finally gave up will agree with me that over a short time, they are better off without the Medications prescribed so freely and at dosages way above the requirements ….. I know, I treat so many depression patients simply with Yoga, pranayam, counsellings and meditation; with wonderfully lasting results that have transformed lives for the better in all ways.

August 25, 2007 at 10:09 pm
(13) Barb says:

I do believe that if someone is really depressed and cannot function they need treatment – it is better than suicide, but I also think doctors are too quick to prescribe medications or leave patients on too long. I have suffered from severe depression many years. I was on SSRI’s for a long time and then I developed a reaction to them and could no longer tolerate them. When I got off, I was worse off than I had been to begin with as I had horrible withdrawl symptoms that have never left (insomnia, anxiety, and worse depression than I started with) that I did not have before I started these meds. I did not just go back to the way I was before I got on medication. I was not told this could happen by my physician, even though the drug companies know this is a possibility from their clinical trials.

August 26, 2007 at 2:12 pm
(14) Brian Kloosterman says:

I think it is over diagnosed. It all starts with a couple of celebrities stating they have something and then 10,000 fans have it also. Bipolar seems to be the biggest fad.
I think the bar should be raised for diagnosis …such as: not getting out of bed except to use the bathroom.
I do think there is a lot of people that could use someone to talk to but that’s a far cry (no pun intended) from depression.

September 6, 2007 at 3:42 pm
(15) christopher says:

i would have to say down with the free writing of family doctors that want to push pills because they feel that they are helping the greater cause?
i know somebody that has a bi-polar disorder and does not treat with anti-depressants and what a roller coaster but what i think that would treat with out drugs is self empowerment to teach yourself how to cope with depression.
I am an addictions counselor and find that solving the core issues is important before try to treat with drugs as a last resort.

July 27, 2008 at 4:45 am
(16) Ahuli Pitt says:

I believe there are so many depressed people in our society because they aren’t happy with themselves. There are sooooooo many outside pressures——including the ones we let in through the media etc., that we are bombarded with how we should act, feel , work, play and so on. Come on people—-forget the status quo!!!!

Depression, The Life Destroyer.

April 22, 2010 at 5:35 am
(17) cathi says:

My dr tapered me down off of zoloft 50mg then 25mg then 2 weeks later started me on a very low dose of lithium and I have been taking that for a week. I still feel dizzy,lightheaded and hot I don’t like this feeling also stomach cramps. Please tell me what to do?

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