According to a recent survey, 96 percent of general practitioners (GPs) "usually" or "always" make an attempt to determine the severity level of depression at diagnosis. However, only 11 percent said they feel "very confident" discussing what this means for treatment choices with their patients, while only 20 percent said they "always" try.
The severity of someone's depression is an important factor to consider when making treatment choices, and people with depression are therefore missing out on information to help them choose which treatments would be best for them, which 66 percent of respondents surveyed felt would be useful.1
The time it takes to make an accurate diagnosis is also a factor preventing access to the most appropriate treatment; almost half of GPs say that it takes over three months for them to be satisfied that they have identified the right severity level of someone's depression.
"We need to ensure that people are able to make informed decisions about their treatment," said Dr. Chris Manning MRCGP, Fellow of the International Society for Affective Disorders, Mental Health Lead for the College of Medicine and advisor to the campaign. "This means we need to provide them with clear information on the different severity levels and types of depression, as well as all of the treatment choices at their disposal and the supports that is available to help them."
According to Emer O'Neill, Chief Executive of Depression Alliance, people need good quality, easily accessible information on depression in order to make choices on the range of treatments available. "People with depression need access to information so they can work with their GP to help them access different choices which have been shown to help assist recovery and end the feelings of loneliness that come with depression, including talking therapies and lifestyle changes." There are also problems identifying bipolar disorder, a serious condition in which people feel both up and down, and distinguishing it from major depressive disorder in which people just feel depressed.
For example, only 34 percent of GPs routinely screen for bipolar disorder, despite GPs estimating that 40 percent of their bipolar patients had originally been diagnosed with something different.
The survey results have been released as part of "There's More To Depression," a public education campaign that hasreceived input from several independent healthcare advisors. Coinciding with Depression Awareness Week it highlights the challenges that GPs face in regards to making a timely and accurate diagnosis, providing appropriate information to their patients and understanding the importance of different types of depression.
1. AstraZeneca Data on file SER/040/MAR11