Major Depression Across Atlantic: Diagnosis and Treatment

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Major Depression Across Atlantic: Diagnosis and Treatment

In this day and age depression is a catchword. It is applied to all imaginable situations, from grieving after the loss of a loved one to simple foul moods. Although such a loose usage of the word is hardly warranted, the statistics of the World Health Organization suggest that there is some real basis behind it: about 4-5% of the world's population suffer from depression, and it is the reason behind about 60% of all suicides (1). United States is ahead of the world's quota in this sad race: according to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 9.5% of the population (or about 18.8 million adults) experience a depressive disorder in any given year (2). With such prevalence, one can hardly wonder why the issues of diagnosing and treating depression are so urgent and controversial both in the United States and around the globe.

While the growing awareness of the reality of depression as an illness gradually removes the stigma from those suffering from it, the public's attitude, at least in America, seems to be shifting to the other extreme. Almost any sadness, change of mood, or less-than-happy-go-lucky behavior is suspected of being a herald of depression, regardless of the possible causes. On the one hand, people began to be less reserved about seeking psychological help (which is a good thing). On the other hand, both psychiatrists and primary care providers are sometimes too quick to give a verdict "depression" and even more prone to use antidepressants as a cure-all. Although the causes of depression are by no means well-defined (3), drugs that supposedly adequately treat it are publicized without reservation and often regarded as the only possible solutio...

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...ney-and-time and more individual-and-quality oriented, keeping in mind the fact that giving drugs to a patient does not remedy the problem, but teaching him or her to cope with stress on their own potentially will. However, one should not underestimate the gains of the American doctors in the fields of awareness and social support of people with depression, which are unquestionably more advanced than their Russian counterparts. Both countries would benefit immensely from productive dialogue and exchange of experience. Hopefully, such a dialogue will be started in a foreseeable future.

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