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Are Physicians Hesitant to Diagnose Depression?

SAN MATEO, Calif., Providing a voice to an often silent disease, Epocrates, Inc. surveyed 500 clinicians to identify trends in depression diagnosis, prevalence and treatment. People dealing with stress, whether in the workplace or at home, should take note; nearly all clinicians identified stress as the leading contributor to depression.

The majority of clinicians reported seeing an increase in depression in the past five years, and believe this increase may be driven by greater disease awareness, and ultimately more patients seeking help. However, clinicians reported that many more patients may be experiencing symptoms that are going undiagnosed.

More than half of survey respondents felt that physicians are hesitant to diagnose depression, primarily due to resistance from patients and lack of societal acceptance. Clinicians also reported uncertainty about diagnosing depression, as patients may present symptoms differently based on gender and ethnicity, or may be a product of another medical illness.

"In today's digital age, the increasing pressure to get it done yesterday can lead to more stress and potentially depression. Early recognition and intervention are important to prevent the loss of jobs, damage to relationships or suicidal thoughts," said John Luo, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

The vast majority of clinicians reported recommending prescription therapies for their patients experiencing depression. Beyond pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy, 60 percent of respondents believe lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise and meditation may also be helpful in treating depression, depending on the patient's individual situation.

Additional key survey findings include:

-- Gender makes a difference when diagnosing depression
-- Thirty percent of clinicians reported being less likely to discuss depres sion with men.
-- Clinicians reported it is often more difficult to treat men because they are less "open" than women, and symptoms such as anger or addiction may not be immediately linked to depression.
-- Clinicians may be more likely to experience depression
-- More than 50 percent of clinicians reported experiencing depression at some point in their lives, which compared to the National Institutes of Health data, could make them more than twice as likely to experience depression as the general public.
-- Additionally, 12 percent of clinicians reported missing work because they felt depressed. Clinicians are not alone-a national study revealed that depression is the leading cause of missed work days, and lost productivity due to depression is estimated at $83 billion a year.


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