The majority of people taking antidepressants may not actually have depression, a new study claims.
Researchers discovered more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of people taking antidepressants did not meet the criteria for major depressive disorder, which is also known as clinical depression.
Antidepressants are also prescribed for other psychiatric disorders.
But the researchers found 38 per cent of those taking the drugs did not meet the criteria for obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia or generalised anxiety disorder either.
The U.S. investigators looked at those taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), the most commonly prescribed type of anti-depressant.
SSRIs are usually the first choice medication for depression and other psychiatric conditions because they generally have fewer side effects than most other types of antidepressant.
Writing in the report, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the researchers concluded: ‘Many individuals prescribed antidepressants may not have met the criteria for mental disorders.
‘Our data indicates that antidepressants are commonly used in the absence of clear evidence-based indications.’
Commenting on the study, Dr Howard Forman, medical director of the Addiction Consultation Service at Montefiore Medical Center, said clinical depression is distinct from temporary feelings of sadness.
He told Medical Daily: ‘We all experience periods of stress, periods of sadness, and periods of self-doubt.
‘These don’t make us mentally ill, they define us as human.’
In the U.S., official guidelines say clinical depression should be diagnosed if a person has five or more depressive symptoms over a two week period, most of the day, nearly every day.
The symptoms include a depressed mood; a loss of interested or pleasure in activities; weight loss, weight gain or changes in appetite; insomnia or increased desire to sleep.