According to the findings of a 1999 study by the Rand Corporation, a research institution in Santa Monica, California, the diagnosis of severe depression is missed at least half the time. The rate of misdiagnosis is even higher for the more common milder forms of depression and even when the diagnosis is correct and medication prescribed, it is frequently the wrong drug or an inadequate dose. Such mistaken treatment, in turn, feeds into the popular notion that not much can be done about depression, when in fact at least 80 percent of patients can obtain significant relief through modern antidepressants and psychotherapy.
The problem may be compounded by the fact that the nature of the standard medical office visit does not make vigorous investigation and diagnosis of depression likely. Sometimes, patients are asked by their physicians whether or not they are or think they are depressed. Their reply may determine whether the inquiry goes any further and whether a possible diagnosis of depression will be made.