University of São Paulo: Misconceptions linked to depression can delay diagnosis and treatment

The severity of depression in Brazil is triggered by the delay in seeking medical care and initiating treatment. The finding came from a survey led by the IPSOS Institute, which says that Brazilians take about three years and three months to then seek medical help and start treatment for depression. The picture reflects not only the challenges encountered in combating the disease, but also exposes prejudices of a disease that gradually advances in the process of acceptance related to the mental condition of the sick.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DMS-5), created by the American Psychiatric Association, depression is a condition in which the patient is in a “sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic and cognitive changes. that significantly affect an individual’s ability to function. And Brazil has 11.3% of patients in this condition.

delay in treatment

In such a scenario, the issue involving the delay for effective treatment has serious consequences. Doctor Doris Hupfeld Moreno, supervisor of the Affective Disorders Program (Progruda) at the Psychiatry Institute of the Hospital das Clínicas, FMUSP, comments that, like any other clinical manifestation, the delay in starting treatment leads to a significant worsening, since, “The longer a person is sick, the greater the biological consequences”. The social cycle is also affected, since it can trigger damages in family relationships, in the core of friends and in the professional scope.

Depression has multiple factors, ranging from brain chemical changes to chronic dysfunction and family history. It is mainly because of the lack of knowledge about the disease that stigmas linked to the disease arise. Leila Salomão, professor at the Institute of Psychology, better explains the factors behind the problem: “Social stigmas exist. This is where the prejudice of blaming the depressed person comes in, so the person feels ashamed.”

This is one of the main reasons that cause delays in seeking treatment. And, in addition, Professor Leila highlights that the search is made difficult when “it is increased by the lack of understanding, dialogue and by the rude ways of facing conflicts”, as a result of a posture “of censorship, of prejudiced criticism” regarding to depression.

Important steps in combating depression

Like other illnesses, experts advocate the importance of regular treatment for depression. Leila Salomão stresses the importance of working on “all lines of prevention”, ranging from access to information and adequate education to providing support to the families of the sick. With regard to treatment, psychiatrist Doris Hupfeld highlights that, for each clinical condition, the right medication and the correct dosage must be indicated by a qualified professional.

She also adds that: “Paths in public policies to support those affected by depression and invest in mental health clinics, plus CAPS [Center for Psychosocial Care] for the population”, are some of the practical measures that can work together with a efficient treatment, to reduce the stigma surrounding the disease and the number of people affected by depression.

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