Is depression being misdiagnosed?

The latest figures indicate that depression rates are rising faster than any other condition.

Despite people in the UK living in an affluent society that is free from war and famine, on average one in 10 people are affected by depression.

According to new figures from NHS Digital, in some areas of England, as many as one in six patients have now been diagnosed with depression.

For many years, mental health issues were not discussed which consequently led to individuals not being aware of common signs or symptoms to look out for.

However, in today’s society, there has been a sudden increase in the rates of depression. This could be due to the combination of social media perpetuating unrealistic expectations, alongside more celebrities opening up about the personal struggles they are facing and the increased awareness for mental health, meaning many people are urging for a diagnosis to give validation to their problems.

The London School of Economics conducted a study that revealed that mental illness accounts for nearly half of all ill health in the under 65s, only a quarter of those who need treatment actually get it.

Some of the highest rates of under-diagnosis occur in lower class middle-aged and older men, who also have the highest rates of suicide.

A Government inquiry into suicide showed that less than 10 per cent of people who killed themselves had been referred to mental health services in the previous year.

The NHS reported that the second most common condition treated by GPs is depression (9.9 per cent), increasing from 9.1 per cent last year.

Moreover, there have been several reputable-sounding surveys which appear to suggest that about 50 per cent of children are experiencing mental health problems.

Similarly, one report from the National Union of Students suggested that over three-quarters of students are mentally ill.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely said:  “One wonders what’s happening when you have 78 per cent of students telling their union they have mental health problems — you have to think, well, this seems unlikely”.

He says: ‘We are acutely aware of the dangers of over-medicalisation of what are normal emotional problems… [Psychiatrists] are the people who try to maintain some form of boundary between sadness and depression, between eccentricity and autism, between shyness and social phobia.’

Antidepressants can be a lifesaver for those with depression; nevertheless, they come with serious side effects and should be carefully considered before being prescribed to patients.

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