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Although mental disorders, including depression, are one of the biggest health problems facing our society, a study reveals that people are hesitant to share their depression symptoms with their doctor, out of fear that they would be put on antidepressant

People Hesitant to Share Depression Symptoms with Their Doctor out of Fear that they would be Put on Antidepressants

The study, which has been published in the latest issue of the journal “Annals of Family Medicine”, has found that almost 43 percent people do not disclose their symptoms regarding depression to their physician.  Most of them are worried that the doctor would prescribe them antidepressants. Many also felt that it is not the job of the doctor to deal with their problems concerning emotional issues.


The study, led by Robert Bell at the University of California, Davis, was done with the main objective of finding out the reasons behind the under-reporting of depression symptoms. The researchers conducted a telephonic survey of 1,504 adults from California, to inquire about their reasons for non-disclosure of such symptoms to their doctors, their beliefs regarding depression and the demographic characteristics influencing such decisions.

Almost 43% of the participants agreed that they did not disclose their emotional problems to their doctors. 23 percent were concerned that they would be put on antidepressants. 16 percent of the participants felt that clinicians are not meant to deal with these problems, while another 16 percent were worried that a diagnosis of depression on their prescription was not good for their professional lives.

Patients who do not have a History of Depression are more worried about being referred to a Psychiatrist


 The researchers found that the problem of non-disclosure of depression symptoms was more likely with those individuals who did not have a history of depression. Such individuals were more likely to believe that tackling emotional issues was not the job of their clinician. They were also afraid of being referred to a psychiatrist or being labeled as a psychiatric patient.

Of all the patients interviewed in the survey, 153 were found to be suffering from moderate to severe depression. And yet, they were the ones who were the most afraid of being put on antidepressant drugs. According to Dr. Robert Bell, it is ironical that people who are most likely to benefit for antidepressant treatment were found to be hesitant in disclosing their symptoms to their doctors.

Around 60 percent of people who take antidepressants feel better with the first antidepressant that they try, as per the statistics provided by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Some of the side effects of antidepressant medicines include constipation, headaches, dizziness, sleep problems and weight gain. It is these side effects which make most of the people wary of taking the medicines.

The authors of the study have suggested that the doctors should encourage their patients to discuss their problems freely with them. They should clarify to their patients that prescribing antidepressants is purely optional and depends upon the choice of the patient. They should also encourage the patients to opt for psychotherapy as it has been found that the patients are more open to “talk therapy” than medications.

  • “Suffering in Silence: Reasons for Not Disclosing Depression in Primary Care”, Robert A. Bell, Peter Franks, et al, Annals of Family Medicine, published in September 2011, accessed on September 15, 2011
  • “Many reluctant to tell doctors about depression”, by Amy Norton, Reuters, published on September 12, 2011, accessed on September 15, 2011
  • Photo courtesy of jar0d on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/jar0d/