Analysis from the Office for National Statistics has revealed that the occurrence of depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) among adults has risen since the early 1990s.
But… the rate at which doctors are prescribing drugs for these conditions has increased far more sharply.
Doctors in England issued 39.1 million prescriptions for anti-depressants in 2009 – four times higher than in 1991 (9 million).
Mental health experts see this as further evidence that some GPs are over-reliant on the ‘cheap’ option of prescribing drugs, rather than addressing the underlying psychological issues through counselling or psychotherapy.
Philip Hodson, a fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), pointed out that prescribing drugs such as prozac is a cheap alternative to psychotherapy and counselling, but is a false economy in the long run.
GPs’ over reliance on drugs may be because in some areas there is a lack of access to psychotherapy services which leaves doctors with little choice but to prescribe medication. Government research shows that one in five patients in the NHS has to wait more than two years to see a psychotherapist or counsellor through their GP.
Three quarters of adults assessed as being in need of treatment are not receiving either medication or psychotherapy.
The mental health charity Mind reminded sufferers that anti-depressants are not recommended as the first port of call for depression, except in cases of very severe depression. Rather, sufferers should seek talking therapies such as psychotherapy.
One in ten adults has been diagnosed with depression.
Women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men. (However, there is no evidence that men are less likely to suffer from depression – just that they do not seek help. The Royal College of Psychiatrists notes, in a leaflet produced for the Depression Alliance entitled “Men and Depression“, that men are more likely to try and use alcohol and drugs to help them feel better – which usually makes things worse in the long run.)
The proportion of adults diagnosed with common mental illnesses such as depression, OCD, panic disorders, anxiety and phobias rose from 15.5% in 1993 to 17.6% in 2007. That’s nearly one fifth of the adult population.
If you are suffering from depression and/or anxiety do seek help. It is generally a good idea to consult your GP, especially if your depression is having a significant impact on your life. Generally depression responds well to psychotherapies that address the underlying psychological issues (not all do), so if you are suffering it may be a good idea to consider seeking psychotherapy.
If you are contemplating suicide please contact your GP urgently or speak to the Samaritans.
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