If you are 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. He or she can check for any underlying physical problems that may be causing your symptoms. At this appointment, your doctor can also 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 changed? Your appetite?
- Do you no longer enjoy certain activities the way you used to?
- Does depression run in your family?
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 these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
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:
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 can help you talk through any emotional issues that may be contributing to your condition. Psychiatrists can also prescribe medication. When used in combination with medication, talk therapy has proven very effective in treating clinical depression.
Psychologists are not medical doctors and cannot write prescriptions. However, they do specialize in talk therapy. They hold advanced degrees in the science of behavior, thoughts, and emotions. After getting their degrees, they must go through specialized training. They must also be licensed and certified before treating patients. They help patients learn how to cope with mental health problems and day-to-day life issues in a healthy way.
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.