Difficulties of diagnosis on depression
Depression is a complex illness for it can be an illness in its own right, it can be mistaken for other mental illnesses and it can also exist as part of physical disease. In addition, it can be mistaken for physical illnesses. Depression is not the result of an inadequate personality.
Even when depression exists in its own right and the primary diagnosis is depression, the anxiety associated with it may be so great that the family doctor diagnoses anxiety rather than depression. Panic attacks, obsessions and phobias are also common in depression.
Depression can also exist as a secondary illness when the primary condition is agoraphobia, social phobia, substance abuse, alcoholism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attack or anxiety. It is also common in many physical illnesses, especially stroke, cancer and Parkinson’s disease. It may also be associated with dementias and Alzheimer’s disease. It is often seen in long-term illnesses, that is, chronic, disabling conditions such as heart disease and arthritis.
Depression can be mistaken for thyroid disease, the onset of the menopause, glandular fever or the early stages of cancer when there are no signs other than pain to indicate cancer.
It is not your fault
Despite the fact that depression is a recognizable illness, many people, including some doctors, still believe that the symptoms amount to spinelessness, malingering, understandable misery or grief. “Pull yourself together” or “Get a grip on yourself” have become cliches simply because they are so often said by relatives or friends. No one who has ever suffered the fear and anguish of true depression would make that mistake. You are not to blame, but can take positive steps to recovery.
Keep a diary to record how you felt when you were depressed so that you may refer to it again in the event of a further episode. If you strongly believe that depression is only part of what you are suffering, you should persist with your family doctor and ask for a hospital referral. Ask for a second opinion if you are still not satisfied.
Key Facts: Anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder are often mistaken for depression. It can be wrongly diagnosed for some physical illnesses and it is, therefore, important that the relevant diagnostic tests are carried out. Even when it accompanies a major physical illness, depression still needs to be treated.