Public awareness of depression has improved significantly over the last decade.  We have also seen a huge growth in information about depression.  For example Google the term “depression” and you get more than 66.5 million pages returned!

While this growth in awareness is to be welcomed, it can sometimes lead to difficulties.  In theory, it is no longer necessary to have any contact with a medical practitioner in order to diagnose and treat depression.  It is easy to find a website that will allow you to self-diagnose, and there is no shortage of online pharmacies from which you can buy antidepressants.  This is a particular problem with depression because the stigma and discrimination that result from being formally diagnosed with a “mental illness” can cause people to seek alternative ways of addressing their condition.

Self-diagnosis and self-treatment carry significant risks that have to be considered.  First, several of the symptoms of depression are common to a number of serious physical illnesses, including:

  • diabetes
  • liver disease
  • thyroid problems

Your doctor will want to rule these out before making a diagnosis of depression.  Not all of the online diagnostic tests for depression are sophisticated enough to do this.  So there is a risk that you may overlook a potentially serious physical illness by assuming you have depression.

Self-treatment often involves (the not too difficult process of) getting around the regulations controlling the import of medicines, which are designed to assure the safety and quality of medicines provided through the NHS.  Buying any medicine from an online pharmacy carries a risk of counterfeiting.  At best, would mean buying a sugar pill.  At worse, you could be buying pills containing toxic chemical