Antidepressant Medication Use Increases, but Depression Still Undertreated
David Prescott, Ph.D., Acadia Hospital
August 4, 2009
Study Shows Use of Antidepressant Medication has Increased in Past Decade:
In a recently release study, it appears that the percentage of Americans who receive antidepressant medication climbed from just under 6% (5.4%) in the mid-1990’s, to just over 10% in this decade. Dr. Mark Olson at Columbia University and Dr. Steven Marcus at that University of Pennsylvania report that more and more people are receiving antidepressant medication, currently more than 27 million Americans.
Number of Patients Receiving Psychotherapy for Depression may be Decreasing:
In general, it is estimated that only around one third of people with mental illness receive adequate treatment. For depression, while the number of people receiving antidepressant medication increased over the past decade, it may not mean that everyone is receiving the right treatment. Other findings from the same study conclude:
- The percentage of people on antidepressants who also received psychotherapy decreased from 31.5% to 19.8% between the mid 1990’s and the mid’2000’s.
- Much of the increase in use of antidepressants was for conditions other than depression. For example, antidepressant medications are often used to treat chronic pain.
- From other research, we know that depression causes more people to become disabled than diseases like cardiac illness, arthritis, or asthma.
What is the difference between major depression and a case of “The Blues?”
Major depression, or clinical depression, is more than simply feeling down for a day or two. To be diagnosed with major depression, a person must experience at least five symptoms of depression over a two week period. Some, but not all, of these symptoms include:
- Persistent sad or irritable mood
- Decrease in energy and motivation
- Feeling hopeless or excessively guilty
- Loss of appetite
- Poor Memory or Concentration
- Preoccupation with Death or Suicide
- Lack of enjoyment in activities
What if You or Someone You Know is Reluctant to Get Help? Encouraging people to get help for depression may take time and patience. The following tips may help:
- Treatment for Depression Improves your Physical and Emotional Well-Being: For some people, realizing that depression is associated with poorer physical health may encourage them to seek treatment. Benefits of treatment include more energy and better sleep.
- Treatment Outcomes for Depression are Quite Good: Most studies show that the majority of people with depression improve with either medication or psychotherapy. When psychotherapy and medication are used together, about 75% of people show significant improvement within a couple of months.
- Medication Isn’t the Only Treatment: Most major studies show that both counseling and medications have significant benefit in treating depression. There are good options of many types available if you are struggling with depression.
- Treatment isn’t forever: Unlike many physical health problems, treatment for depression doesn’t usually go on for the rest of your life. Many people are able to go to counseling or stay on medication for a few months, then gradually taper off.