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?