Sunday, December 14, 2008

Is There Really an Epidemic of Depression? A new book argues that the mental illness is being overdiagnosed

LEHRER: In your book, you take a critical look at major depressive disorder (MDD), a mental illness that will afflict approximately 10 percent of individuals at some point during their life. In recent decades, the number of cases of MDD has sharply increased. Are we currently experiencing an epidemic of depression? Or is this surge due to changes in diagnosis?

HORWITZ AND WAKEFIELD: Our book argues that, despite widespread beliefs to the contrary, the rate of depressive disorders in the population has not undergone a general upsurge. In fact, careful studies that use the same criterion for diagnosis over time reveal no change in the prevalence of depression. What has changed is the growing number of people who seek treatment for this condition, the increase in prescriptions for antidepressant medications, the number of articles about depression in the media and scientific literature, and the growing presence of depression as a phenomenon in popular culture. It is also true that epidemiological studies of the general population appear to reveal immense amounts of untreated depression. All of these changes lead to the perception that the disorder itself has become more common.


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