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A new analysis found that the feelings people often experience after divorce, the loss of a job or the death of a loved one are often wrongly diagnosed as clinical depression.
According to the study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, as much as 25 percent of people who receive treatment for clinical depression may simply be reacting normally to traumatic events.
The study found that those who had experienced stressful events often reported depression symptoms, but only a fraction of them had symptoms that could actually be classified as clinical depression.
The analysis examined depression diagnostic criteria and found that the symptom checklist method of depression diagnosis may need an overhaul.
Today, patients are diagnosed with depression if they exhibit five depression symptoms from a list and they last longer than two months. This list includes symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, sadness and suicidal thoughts.
"The cost of not looking at context is you think anyone who comes under this diagnosis has a biological disorder [and] so should more or less automatically get antidepressant medication, and everything else is superfluous," said Jerome Wakefield, a New York University researcher and the study’s lead author.
The problem is that these symptoms also occur in non-clinically depressed people and can last two months after a traumatic event, but they don’t necessarily constitute an onset of clinical depression that should be treated by medication.
The study points out that these symptoms are part of the natural grieving process, which should not be inhibited by drug treatment.
Let Them Suffer?
The study suggested that therapy could be useful and a lot safer for people who have experienced a great loss, such as that of a prized job or spouse. It also suggested that the therapy could go a long way toward helping reduce the chance of the development of real clinical depression requiring medication.
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