Mental Health Treatment in U.S. Either Too Much or Not Enough

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More Americans are being prescribed multiple psychiatric medications for simultaneous use, but most people diagnosed with recent depression don't get adequate treatment, according to two independent studies published Monday.

In national surveys of more than 15,000 adults, researchers found that 8.3 percent met the diagnostic criteria for major depression during the previous year. About half those diagnosed received some form of treatment for depression, but less than a quarter were treated using strategies considered effective and used in accordance with American Psychiatric Association guidelines, one study found.

"Few Americans with depression actually get any kind of care, and even fewer get care consistent with the standards of care," said professor and author of one of the studies Hector Gonzalez.

Related: Is It Depression or Bipolar Disorder? Learn the Symptoms

Each year, depression affects about 15 million adults in the U.S., or 6.7 percent of the population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It is the country's leading cause of disability.

With major depression, people experience a consistent and profound feeling of being down, or lack of sense of pleasure, to the point where it affects their daily functioning. Of those who sought treatment, about a third received medication and 44 percent reported seeking talk therapy.

Difficulty finding or receiving insurance coverage for care and concern over stigma could be among factors impeding treatment, according to Dr. Gonzalez.

At the same time, psychiatrists are increasingly prescribing more than one psychotropic drug for patients during a single office visit, according to a separate study also published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

There is not any indication that patients are more depressed now than previously, according to the data analyses. And in many cases, there isn't good evidence to show that combining medicines is better than taking just one.

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal