Is Depression Overdiagnosed?

It’s really interesting to watch this debate going on, especially when it gets into very high level medical journals like this Head to Head debate in the British Medical Journal here:



Depression in its various different clinical descriptions over the years has been claimed to be present in anywhere from 1% to 17% of the US population.

As a counselor I am pleased when as a society we recognize the extent to which people having moods that they try to cover up from the rest of society. People have felt alone and isolated with “depression” and “anxiety” for too long.

The destigmatization of depression has however been subverted. It has been taken into the realm of a medical illness needing medication as treatment.

In my work with people I prefer to destigmatize it differently

People come to me saying they have been diagnosed with Depression. I then get them to detail what they expected their life to be, what their life actually has come to at his point, and their likely future outcomes if they continue on their current path.

More often than not I find that I then can ask them this question….

“Having told me all that do you think you should feel anything other than depressed?”

Confronting question? I hope so. Too confronting? For some it can be, and so sometimes I don’t use this approach. At least not in the first session.

Perhaps you’re saying I should be more positive with them about their life.

Perhaps you’re thinking that their depression is causing them to look at their life, past and future, in a bleak way. They really would be happy if they noticed all the good stuff. And that is true. It would be one way to do it.

But it’s not the only way.

In my experience, many people can handle the bizarre idea that their emotions might in fact be honest, direct, warts-and-all feedback about their life.

From this strange ‘negative’ beginning they can start to face their issues for themselves.

I destigmatize such emotions as depression by giving people back the permission to trust their emotions, rather than believe solely in their so-called rational thinking.

That’s what I mean by turning around people’s lives, whether from depression, or other things in life you might have been unable to resolve up to now.

And it is useful for so many of the people who come to me that I put this together:

Being depressed is common. Being stuck in it is not useful. The diagnosis of Depression too often leads people to stay stuck, and for me that is overdiagnosis.

-Dr Martin W. Russell

One thought on “Is Depression Overdiagnosed?”

  1. After reading the commentary on over-diagnosing depression, I found the last sentence “The diagnosis of Depression too often leads people to stay stuck, and for me that is over-diagnosis”, to be the most thought provoking. Some might argue that not knowing, or acknowledging, that you have a problem i.e. AA (alcoholics anonymous and no I am not a member) prevents heeling while this sentence suggests that not knowing prevents progression.

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