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Depression May Be Over-Diagnosed


The American Psychiatric Association have found that many Americans who are diagnosed with depression may not be clinically depressed after all, but simply experiencing normal emotional reactions. VOA's Melinda Smith reports on why many psychiatrists may need to revise their diagnoses. Carol Pearson narrates the video.

The study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry surprised researchers. They now believe that at least 25 percent of Americans diagnosed with depression may simply be experiencing normal grief.

Mourning the loss of a loved one -- or the loss of a job -- can trigger sadness or depression.

Dr. Michael First of Columbia University in New York explains. "It's normal to be sad after a spouse dies. We're arguing that it is also normal to be sad after another terrible thing happens, like you lose your job or you get divorced," he explains.

More than 8,000 Americans participated in the study. Researchers found that one in four people reacted normally to a personal loss that would make anyone sad.

The study raises concerns: if some patients have been misdiagnosed, have they also been given the wrong treatment, like Kathy Anderson, who went into mental health counseling after she lost a son?

She now reaches out to others whom she believes are too quickly diagnosed as ‘clinically depressed.’ "I think it is such a prevalent term that it is almost expected that we be depressed."

Psychiatrists and psychologists use a common checklist of patients' symptoms when making a diagnosis of depression:

· Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness or worthlessness
· Loss of interest or pleasure in enjoyable activities
· Difficulty sleeping and making decisions
· Loss of appetite or overeating
· Thoughts of death or suicide

Researchers are saying doctors should pay more attention to the reasons behind the grief, and realize that no medication is 100 percent safe.

Of even greater concern for some is that pharmaceutical companies fund many of the studies on depression and could influence diagnoses and treatments.

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