Please note: Depression is a serious medical condition and can require medical attention. If you suffer from depression, please call your doctor for diagnosis and a treatment plan that works for you.
The first problem with depression is its definition. A feeling or mental state isn’t easily measured or defined. Sure, there’s a clinical definition, but diagnostic criteria can be awfully subjective. Because of this, and because of the pressure for doctors to prescribe expensive drugs, antidepressants are doled out to people who don’t qualify for the diagnosis of major depression. This includes giving pills to people with insomnia, muscle spasms, or really any report of being bummed out.
The DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) lays out the diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)like this (more or less): Five (or more) of the following symptoms have to be present for a consecutive 2-week period. At least one of these has to be “depressed mood” or “loss of interest or pleasure”:
- Depressed mood (i.e., sad, empty, hopeless)
- Diminished of pleasure in all (or almost all) activities
- Change in weight more than 5% in one month when not dieting
- Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day
- Psychomotor changes (slowed down or sped up) – must be observed by others
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every dayRecurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, or suicidal attempts
Again, while it’s likely that doctors are overprescribing antidepressants, it’s important that if you’re suffering from any of the above criteria, you call your doctor to get some help!