According to research from the University of Warwick, people often misjudge the severity of their depression and anxiety by trying to “rank” their struggles in relation to those of friends, family and the rest of the world. This is cause for concern because these comparisons can lead to missed or false diagnoses.

For example, individuals might perceive their depression or anxiety to be less severe than it really is if they are in close contact with others who have mental health problems and compare themselves to these acquaintances. On the other hand, those who feel depressed may believe incorrectly that their struggles are abnormal because they don’t perceive others’ symptoms to be as intense.

Said lead researcher Karen Melrose of the results, “It is the patient that initiates most … consultations about depression and anxiety, so that personal decision to see a doctor is a vital factor in determining a diagnosis. Given that fact, our study may explain why there are such high rates of under and over-detection of depression and anxiety. Worryingly, people who could be the most vulnerable to mental health disorders – for example, those from certain geographical areas of the country or demographic groups where depression and anxiety are high – could be the very ones who are at highest risk of missed diagnoses. This research could help health professionals better target information campaigns aimed at these groups.”

Source: University of Warwick

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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