Depression is Under-Reported and Under-Treated
Despite all of the devastating implications of depression, this disease is still too often under-reported, and as a consequence, under-treated. Several factors contribute to this urgent situation.
One obstacle is the fact that depression, along with other psychological issues, is less tangible, especially given the relatively short times that a patient spends with his or her physician. Typically, both healthcare providers and patients may feel more comfortable discussing physical MS symptoms (which are easier to observe and evaluate), while ignoring the less obvious (and more sensitive) psychological issues.
This issue is further complicated by the demands placed on practitioners during a typical office visit. Most practitioners have good intentions, but they are challenged during office visits to complete a multitude of tasks. These include answering patients’ questions, listening to their concerns, managing MS symptoms, tracking changes in the course of the disease, educating patients, evaluating treatment approaches, managing medications, and making referrals to other specialists. With all of the things a doctor must do, one can easily understand how a problem like depression may be overlooked.
In addition, individuals – including MS patients – may not recognize the symptoms of depression, particularly if they are experiencing irritation and anger, rather than the more common emotion of a depressed mood. Some patients may automatically assume that their feelings of depression are MS symptoms, and that they must simply live with the sadness and other negative emotions. Finally, some patients may not realize that treatments are available for depression, so they do not pursue the issue.