Are we over-diagnosing the worried well? Part 1

Last year I found myself at a dinner party where the topic of depression came up. Four out of six people at the table admitted to being on an anti-depressant. The only person, other than myself, who wasn’t taking meds was the bachelor ‘ladies man’ of the group.. (for privacy lets call him Craig) who said he refused to fill a script the previous year out of fear of experiencing erectile dysfunction (one of the common side effects). Instead he said, he “rode it out” and found a good therapist who “unscrambled his brain and accessed the child within.”

As I looked around the table and empathised with my friends and their various health challenges I wondered am I a some sort of vortex for troubled souls? Or does this just reflect a mental health epidemic of magnitude? 

The conversation we had that night deeply concerned me. Something felt wrong. I found myself thinking about Huxley’s book Brave New World and his futuristic scenario where everyone in society takes the feel-good drug “soma,” like it’s breakfast. I wondered just how many people are actually on anti-depressants and are they the best treatment option? That question became the catalyst for this blog and my renewed interest in psychology. 

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Whilst I’d done an undergraduate degree years back in communication & psychology .. it had been a while since I’d gotten up to speed on mental heath. So I did some research and what I found was nothing short of staggering:

 “1 in 4 women of reproductive age are taking a medication for depression” … “almost a quarter of Australian teenagers are suffering symptoms of mental illness”… “suicide is now the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44.” 

At first this all seemed incredibly bleak and I felt a great sense of sadness for the state of humanity. But on closer inspection I wondered are were overdiagnosing mental illness for the sake of profit… are we overdiagnosing the worried well? 

Now before I risk massively offending someone who has struggled with deep and profound mental illness I want to say that my intention here is to shed some light on the topic, not dismiss or diminish your sense of suffering. If you feel unwell that’s completely legitimate and you have every right to a diagnosis and to the interventions that work for you.

What I’d like to explore in this blog though is the possibility that increasing numbers of people are being pulled into a misleading psychiatric merry-go-round that may be causing them more harm than good.

medical grief

Prof Peter Gotzsche’s presentation “Why few patients benefit and many are harmed”

A massive eye opener for me was reading the work of Dr Peter Gotzsche; scientist, doctor, medical research expert, published author and co-founder of Cochrane.

Cochrane is one of the worlds largest medical research not-for-profit organisations made up of 37,000 contributors from 130 countries. They conduct systematic reviews of health-care trials to help professionals make the best evidence-based choices possible. In other words they seek to demonstrate what medical interventions work and what don’t; what’s helpful and what’s harmful.

Dr Gotzsche has written several books on corporate corruption in health care and is concerned that Big Pharma has lead psychiatry astray. His work, based on credible science, suggests that anti-depressants are ineffective,  over prescribed and may even be making people worse.

The above slide, from a presentation titled  “Why few patients benefit and many are harmed,” demonstrates how it’s now easier than ever to get a mental illness diagnosis, using the example of grief.

Grief is a depressive disorder in the DSM (the psychiatric bible of disorders) and to qualify you need to have been experiencing depressive symptoms for 2 or more weeks. In the 1980 version of the DSM you could grieve for up to 1 year before it was diagnosed as depression. In the 1994 version it was 2 months. Dr Gozsche asks will it be 2 days in the next round of the DSM?

He makes some important points and raises some poignant questions. You can watch the full presentation here.

In this interview Dr Gotzsche further explores how Big Pharma might have lead us down the garden path and exposes 10 poplar myths in psychiatry. Number #1 being the chemical imbalance theory. I highly recommend this video which may change the way you view mental illness.


More on this topic to come in part 2..


The Truth about Mental Health is an affiliate of Dr Kelly Brogan, Holistic Woman’s Health Psychiatrist. Check out her online mental health recovery course here.

a mind of your own








11 thoughts on “Are we over-diagnosing the worried well? Part 1

  1. There are so many reasons in a persons life that can bring us to that state of depression.. No two ever being the same.. But I do think that when a person goes to the Drs seeking help knowing that their emotions are not right.. They often dish out pills as a quick fix, which I have seen do not always fix anything.. As drugs have their side effects and addictions that can lead from one strength to another..

    While I myself for a while was on drugs, I knew they were only sending me into a stupor that held me in a haze of zombie like actions..
    Instinctively I knew the answer was not in pills.. but that was in my circumstances.. So each person and circumstances are different..

    I sort our alternative therapy too.. And I not only had counselling, but in the beginning too I had a herbal alternatives which helped.. By going to see a professional herbalist..

    Another thing why so many I feel are depressed today is that we are so stressed out.. we live in a constant state of thinking we live in lack.. So seek through our careers, relationships, and often in the young by our materialism to think external things are going to make us happy.. For we this is what each of us are seeking..

    And when it fails and falls short of our expectations.. our Spirits plummet and our aura’s which we so often do not associate with our ‘Energy bodies’ get pressed in with negativity.. Hence.. the energy surrounding us is ‘De-pressed’ causing us to feel out of sorts, and emotional..
    learning to see how the external affects our internal is also an important key into understanding our our Health and well-being is affected..

    Which is why I so was helped by Louise Hay’s You can Heal your Life Book.. for altering our mind set on how we view life and ourselves.. Learning to LOVE ourselves, was an important factor in my own recovery..

    Love and Blessings
    Sue xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sue, Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your life saved my life. I was living in Brazil at the time. During the struggles I faced after my then-husband abandoned me and our two sons in Brazil, my boss gave me a copy of Hay’s book in Portuguese: Voce Pode Curar Sua Vida. As you say, in altering the way I viewed myself and others, I was able to heal myself and face the adversity of raising two sons on my own in a foreign country with a foreign language.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yep good book! Got me through some tough times. I’ve gone through some periods where I’ve challenged the idea of affirmations only to come full circle and realise that they work like a permission slip. even if you don’t believe them the act of saying them gives you permission to potentially believe it and that acts as an invitation. it opens the door. I might right a post on this ha ha giving me ideas 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wow Rosaliene, what a true testament to the power of healing one’s inner self.. Well done, but what an awful ordeal you and your Sons must have initially gone through..

        My own healing was from a nervous break down, and later my body giving up on me which was to help me change my career pathway.. As I had full blown FMS.. which knocked me sideways for a while.. but the power of affirmations, good people around me, and inner strength.. And believing we have the power in our minds to overcome anything .. in Mind over Matter.. Showed me how by using Affirmations, Qi Gong and I still have ongoing acupuncture monthly, just how we can help heal our lives..
        Kudos to you Rosaliene.. And may you continue to draw from that inner strength.. 🙂 💕💐

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your very thoughtful comment. Full of wisdom as per usual!! I still really like Louise Hay’s book too. It was one of the first self-help books I ever read and got me through my high school exams and into a respected university. Sometimes I question the extremes of that philosophy like whether or not people choose to have accidents or certain illnesses .. I can see how that would be the case in many instances but it can be hard to digest with stuff like abuse and other terrible things that happen to people. I’m definitely open minded and like to explore these things.. try to stretch the boundaries as much as I can in terms of the degree to which I can create my life.,

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes I find it hard to get my head around many things like that Rachael especially when young children fall victim to abuse and worse.
        Its something my mind is always open to, for we do not know the workings of the world and the whys and wherefores .. Which keeps my thoughts focused upon more positives things if I can.. And remember the saying what goes around comes around, and we reap what we sow..
        So I try planting Good seeds wherever possible.. 🙂 and many thanks for your lovely reply 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “But on closer inspection I wondered are were overdiagnosing mental illness for the sake of profit… are we overdiagnosing the worried well?”
    ~ Big Pharma reaps the profits. When their drugs present adverse side effects, they have other drugs to counter those too. It’s a winning business for them and we the consumer/patient fall for their lies. When our medical professionals receive a commission on each prescription they fill for these drugs, they are complicit in the deception.

    It is natural as a human being to have good and bad days. The gods know how many bad days I’ve lived through – without the use of drugs – and how many more lie in wait for me in the days, months, and years ahead. Facing our own death or the death of a loved one is more than enough cause for depression to cloud our days. To think that a drug will make all things bright again is to live a life of illusion. Overcoming adversity builds strength of character. To know the pain of loss is to appreciate the joy of life. We cannot have one without the other.

    When we value our stuff more than we value the human relationships in our lives, we are left with our stuff and our emptiness. With our individualism and pursuit of our happiness, whatever that means for each one of us, we lose connection with our inner selves and with other human beings.


  3. Pingback: Are we over-diagnosing the worried well? Part 2. | The Truth about Mental Health

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