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Doctors for Depression

Getting treatment for depression

Key points

  1. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression that you can’t manage on your own, see your primary care physician first.
  2. They’ll do an initial assessment for depression and may refer you to a specialist.
  3. Treatment usually involves a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression that you can’t manage on your own, or that don’t seem to be improving with lifestyle changes, make an appointment with your primary care physician. They can check for any underlying physical problems that may be causing your symptoms.

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Basic screening

Basic screening for depression

Your primary care doctor will probably do some basic screening for depression. Here are a few questions you should be prepared to answer:

  • How long have you had your symptoms?
  • Is it unusual for you to have low moods?
  • Have you experienced any recent personal losses or changes in your life?
  • Have your loved ones noticed any changes in you?
  • Have your sleeping patterns or appetite changed?
  • Do you no longer enjoy certain activities the way you used to?
  • Does depression run in your family?
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Ask the doctor

What to ask your doctor

Before your appointment, make a list of your own questions to ask your doctor. Here are a few provided by the Mayo Clinic to help you get started:

  • Is depression the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • Other than the most likely cause, what are other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
  • What kinds of tests will I need?
  • What treatment is likely to work best for me?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you’re suggesting?
  • I have other health conditions and want to know how can I best manage them together?
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Treatment

Treatment

Your doctor may prescribe antidepressant medication for you. After an initial assessment, your doctor may also refer you to one of the following specialists for further care:

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Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are licensed physicians who treat mental health conditions. Once they finish medical school, they have four more years of training in psychiatry. They specialize in mental health and emotional problems. A psychiatrist’s special training and ability to prescribe medications can help to improve your symptoms. Some psychiatrists combine medications with psychotherapy. They can help you talk through any emotional issues that may be contributing to your condition. When used in combination with medication, talk therapy has proven very effective in treating clinical depression.

Psychologists

Psychologists are professionals who are prepared at the doctoral level in most states. In some states they can write prescriptions. However, their main focus is psychotherapy or talk therapy. They hold advanced degrees in the science of behavior, thoughts, and emotions. After getting their degrees, they must go through an internship to learn how to perform advanced psychological testing and therapy. Similar to physicians, they must be licensed in their state of practice in order to provide care. They help patients learn how to cope with mental health problems and day-to-day life issues in a healthy way.

Social workers

Social workers need a master’s degree in order to provide talk therapy. They are trained to help individuals with emotional situations. Although social workers have less schooling than psychologists, they can be just as helpful.

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