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Study Suggests Diagnostic Tools for Depression May Lead to Misdiagnosis in Children and Adolescents

In the United States, depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States, claiming more than 40 million adults, almost 18% of the population, ages 18 and older, as its victims. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 2.8 million adolescents between the ages of 12 through 17 in the United States, approximately 11.4% of the population, suffer from depression as well; it is estimated that2% of young children and 8% of teenagers suffer from severe depression. With the high incidence of depression throughout the American population, more and more diagnostic and screening tests have been created to better diagnose the disorder, so that victims may be identified for treatment.

The Standard for Diagnosing Depression in Children and Adolescents

A recent study, however, has indicated that maybe some of the more well-known tests used to identify children and adolescents who suffer from depression and/or some form of an anxiety disorder, are actually being misdiagnosed. Over the last years, the standard for determining depression was through the administration by physicians to their young children or adolescent patients of a short questionnaire reviewing and evaluating whether they are expressing symptoms of the disorder. However, the study suggested that the questionnaire that was administered to the young patients does not in fact adequately ascertain whether the children are displaying symptoms of depression.

1 Study on 17 Studies Evaluating 20 Different Screening Tools

Only 17 studies over the last decade have actually reviewed the 20 screening tools used by physicians to determine level of depression for minor patients. Though the 17 studies showed a limited view of the accuracy of these 20 screening tools due to ineffective methodology used (such as a small sample size of patients evaluated within the debunking studies), the overall picture showed that these diagnostic screening tools were overly broad, with lower cut-off thresholds, which ultimately led to diagnosing more minors and adolescents than the actual number of children who legitimately suffer from depression.

Overdiagnosing Leading to Overprescribing

When it comes to medicine, many believe the old adage that it is better to be safe than sorry. However, over-diagnosing young children as depressed may lead to over-prescribing of medication to children who most likely do not need the prescription and whose brain chemistry, at such a young age, will be significantly altered. Providing serious chemicals to young children who do not need this medication, in particular, children who are at the start of their brain development, can only lead to stunted or delayed development.

The Emotional Damage of Being Misdiagnosed as “Depressed”

The physical experience of being misdiagnosed does not adequately address the psychological effects of being diagnosed at such a young age with a highly stigmatized disorder. In other words, the diagnosis of depression may actually lead to a child, who might not have otherwise been depressed, suffering from depression as a result of the diagnosis. This leads to a vicious cycle. Finally, a misdiagnosis may lead to the draining effect of limited treatment resources to other children and adolescents who may suffer from severe mental health problems. In the United States, for example, anxiety disorders cost more than $42 billion dollars annually, roughly a third of the $148 billion dollars appropriated for mental health. Spending any time or money on a child misdiagnosed as depressed may take lead a child falling through the cracks of an overburdened system.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You

If your child was misdiagnosed as depressed due to the negligence of a medical professional, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney about the specifics of your claim. Please call the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at (301) 804-2312 for a confidential consultation.

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