Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Are You Really Depressed?

A friend read an article contending that depression is over-diagnosed. Since I was once diagnosed and cured, I am skeptical. What are your views?

Answer (Published 1/10/2008)

This intriguing question is a topic of wide debate in psychiatric circles and was the subject of two recent journal articles. The first, published in the April 2007 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, was based on a survey of more than 8,000 Americans. It concluded that estimates of the number who suffer from depression at least once during their lives (some 30 million people) are about 25 percent too high. The authors contend that about one in four people who seems depressed is actually responding normally to emotional upheavals such as divorce, loss of a job or some other blow. They note that questions designed to elicit answers indicative of depression don’t take these losses into account (with the exception of bereavement). The new survey showed that people who had lost jobs or whose relationships had ended responded to the questions in much the same way as those who were dealing normally with grief. The authors maintained that using the current definition of depression, the folks who reacted normally to the loss of their jobs or relationships would also be diagnosed as clinically depressed.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for a Healthy Mind - Want to help protect your memory? You can reduce your risk of developing diseases influenced by inflammation, including Alzheimer's, simply by following an anti-inflammatory diet like the one featured on the Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging online guide. Start your free trial today and get 14 days free!

This issue was aired in Great Britain in August 2007, following publication in the British Medical Journal of an article by an Australian psychiatrist who claimed that the formal definitions for clinical depression have expanded to the point that milder, more common experiences are being pathologized. The author, Professor Gordon Parker of the University of New South Wales, said that his 15-year study of 242 teachers showed that more than three quarters met the current criteria for depression. He wrote that depression had become a "catch-all" diagnosis, driven by clever marketing from pharmaceutical companies and the expanding use of antidepressants.

While psychiatrists argue the issue, I will continue to recommend the following alternatives to medication for treatment of mild to moderate depression:

  • Aerobic exercise, at least 30 minutes per day
  • Breathing exercises, meditation and yoga
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (fish such as salmon and sardines, plus walnuts and freshly ground flaxseeds) or an omega-3 fatty acid supplement with more DHA than EPA
  • St. John's wort. Take 300 mg of an extract, standardized to 0.3% hypericin and 5% hyperforin, three times a day with food
  • SAMe. Look for enteric-coated tablets providing the butanedisulfonate form, and follow label directions
  • Acupuncture (recognized by the World Health Organization as effective for mild to moderate depression)

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here