I saw a feature story on CBS Sunday Morning titled “The Broad Reach of Depression,” and I’ve been pondering its implications ever since. Read the transcript here: Examining the Broad Reach of Deptession
While I admit that it does irk me a little when someone says they’re feeling “depressed” when they’re really just disappointed over being passed over for promotion, or they just had a spat with their spouse or child, I sometimes think that saying that depression is over diagnosed may keep someone who is truly clinically depressed from seeking help.
And yes, more and more now in America at least, both primary care physicians and psychiatrists follow the pharmaceutical model for treatment, which may result in giving psychotropic drugs to people who only have situational depression, or a brief bout of sadness. It is my belief that such people would be better served with “talking therapy” or “behavioral therapy. “
Still, for those with moderate to severe depression, as outlined by DSM IV: What is Depession? , medication can mean the difference between feeling trapped in a deep, dark hole, and living a functional life. Indeed, it can mean the difference between life and death.
Bipolar Disorder and true unipolar depression, along with other serious mental illnesses, are chronic Illnesses, like diabetes and heart disease. They are not curable, but their symptoms can be managed by medication and psychotherapy.
So, if you’re sad every once in a while, relax, you’re human! If you are feeling deep sadness for over two weeks, have sleep disturbances, (too much or not enough sleep) significant weight loss or weight gain, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, and all of these symptoms affects your functioning ability, it is time to make an appointment with a psychotherapist and/or a psychiatrist.
There is no shame in getting help for clinical depression. The real shame would be if you did not get help and had to keep living in pain because of your fear of the stigma of mental illness.