Even in the year 2017, Mental Illnesses remain widely misunderstood and tragically ignored in America's apathetic culture. While it's true progress has been made (in recent years) in creating a once non-existent, mental health dialogue, American society still has much to learn about mental illness. With that said, there is no other mental illness our culture need understand more than depression.
Unlike physical maladies, such as strep throat or chicken pox, depression is difficult to identify and is either misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, altogether. Misdiagnosis is partially due to the fact depression is difficult to detect. Contrary to physical ailments, there are no physiological tests that can prove depression's presence within the those who are afflicted.
Apart from being a widely misdiagnosed neurological illness, depression also happens to be the most common. Even worse - with America now averaging 20,000 suicides a year, we now have quantifiable proof that depression is just as deadly as it is ambiguous.
Getting to Know Depression | by the numbers
Current Psychiatry sheds light on the murky topic of depression misdiagnosis in one of their 2012 articles. According to their publication, 26 to 45% of patients - who were diagnosed with suffering from depression - previously failed to meet 'the checklist' criteria doctors use for diagnosing depression, and therefore, were not treated for their mental illness until later screenings.
And that's not all. According to another Current Psychiatry article, published in 2009, general practitioners only identify depression correctly in 47.3% of their cases. The publication also found that doctors commonly misdiagnose unrelated mental illnesses for depression, such as bipolar or borderline personality disorder.
The Stigmatized Misrepresentation of Depression
As if widespread misdiagnosis weren't enough, depression is also unfairly and ignorantly stigmatized in American society. All too often, depression is incorrectly associated with weakness of the mind. This association, of course, couldn't be farther from the truth. In reality, depression is a potentially fatal neurological disease that indiscriminately affects millions of Americans.
Perhaps the most effective way to address our nation's depressive epidemic is to break down cultural influence, and then compare misconceived notions with reality:
CULTURAL MISCONCEPTION AND INFLUENCE: In a society that emphasizes male machismo and feminine perfection, it is no secret as to why those who experience depression, often choose to suffer alone in isolation. Unfortunately, when afraid of persecution, a depressed individual is more likely to act on suicidal thoughts if they do not seek necessary treatment for their emotional pain.
THE REALITY OF DEPRESSION: Ironically, those who are stigmatized for their depression are exceptionally courageous and mentally tough individuals for having lived with a debilitating disease in the first place. Furthermore, those brave enough to fight through their depressive disorder, are stronger than those who deem them as weak-minded.
THE CONCLUSION: We could save countless by dropping misconceived perceptions of depressed people by giving them the credit, support and love their disorder deserves. Understanding the consequences of depression misdiagnosis and unfair stigmatizing is the first step to fixing this fatal issue. To read about the various mental illnesses that are often confused and misdiagnosed for depression, please click below.