Oct 162013
Depression, breaking barriers

Misdiagnosed depression causes barriers to effective treatment plans. Photo by Fran Childress

Depression is a serious medical condition. It isn’t something people choose to have.

The people with Major Depressive Disorder (depression) can’t ‘snap out of it’ or turn on a ‘happy switch.’ To suggest this is to say the condition is controlled by the person. That mentality is unrealistic at this time.

It’s feasible that in the future an effective treatment and possibly a cure for depression may materialize giving people more control of their mental health. But alas, we need more research into the causes before any such hope can be achieved.

Currently, the treatments for depression vary and many times what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. This discrepancy indicates that depression may have different causes and/or environmental triggers. To further complicate the medical diagnosis, many individuals erroneously believe that all depressive conditions are the same.

They are not all the same.

Depression is separate from other depressive conditions such as postpartum, seasonal affective disorder and bi-polar diagnoses. Even ‘situational’ depressive mental states (bereavement) are incorrectly defined as depression. The misdiagnoses of depression are what diminishes the creditability, thus hindering effective mental health treatments.


Chronic depression can be distinguished by specific symptoms. Classic depression symptoms manifest as feeling sad or melancholy for an extended period of time, for no reason. People with depression don’t know why they are melancholic, they just are. That is the distinguishable factor.

Why do people think sufferers of depression can just ‘snap out of it?’ One reason is because there are unscrupulous people who abuse the medical diagnosis to mask other underlying causes.

These people want the depression diagnosis to use as an excuse to mask other issues such as emotional immaturity or a deficit in socialization skills (i.e. they learn that by being ‘sad’ they receive the attention they need). They could have other disorders leading to these sulking behaviors indirectly caused by anger or frustrations which would mimic depression.

Not only do some patients take advantage of the depression diagnosis for selfish or ignorant reasons but the physicians do also. The physicians need to take some responsibility in the misdiagnoses, as well. These practices make it difficult for the true sufferers of depression to receive creditability for their illness.

The patient may not be able to express the symptoms accurately to the unsuspecting doctor. Unfortunately, most (if not all) general practitioners are not trained as mental health professionals thereby handing out antidepressants or mental health treatment plans for depression just to placate the patient.

To add insult to injury, the health insurance industry dictates which diagnosis receives medical coverage. Depression is usually recognized thereby financially compensated by health insurances companies whereas personality disorders are not. This financial limitation/discrimination has a direct impact on patient care. If it wasn’t for the depression diagnosis, the patients would not have any treatment at all for their mental health issues.

What does this all mean?

We have a problem in correctly identifying depression. This problem could be a factor as to why many patients are not receiving proper and effective mental health treatments.

We need accurate assessments of all mental health illnesses AND broader health care coverage, not a blanket “band aid” clumping other mental disorders into the depression category.