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Doctor Discussion Guide: How to Talk About Your MDD

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP on April 26, 2017Written by Valencia Higuera on April 26, 2017
 major depressive disorder

Major depressive disorder (MDD) makes it difficult to be positive, especially when sadness, loneliness, fatigue, and feelings of hopelessness occur on a daily basis. Whether an emotional event, trauma, or genetics trigger your depression, help is available.

If you’re on medication for depression and symptoms continue, it can feel as if you’re out of options. But while antidepressants and other medications such as antianxiety drugs or antipsychotics can relieve symptoms, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment plan for depression. This is why it’s important to be open and honest about MDD with your doctor.

This is easier said than done, especially if you haven’t come to terms with your illness. However, your recovery depends on whether you can overcome this hurdle. As you prepare for your next appointment, here are a few pointers to keep in mind.

Stop feeling embarrassed

Don’t be reluctant to speak to your doctor about your symptoms. Regardless of whether you’ve had detailed discussions about depression in the past, always keep your doctor in the loop.

Bringing up the topic doesn’t mean you’re a whiner or complainer. Quite the opposite, it means you’re proactive with finding an effective solution. Your mental health is important. So if the medication you take isn’t working, it’s time to experiment with another medication or a different type of therapy.

You may be very sensitive to sharing information out of anxiety over how your doctor will respond. But in all likelihood, there’s nothing you’ll say to your doctor that they haven’t heard before. Most doctors realize that some treatments don’t work for everyone. Holding back and never discussing how you feel can prolonging your recovery.

Keep a journal

The more information you share with your doctor, the easier it’ll be for your doctor to recommend an effective treatment plan. Your doctor needs to know everything about your condition, such as symptoms and how you feel on a day-to-day basis. It also helps to provide information about your sleep habits, your appetite, and energy level.

Recalling this information at an appointment can be difficult. To make it easier on yourself, keep a journal and record how you feel each day. This gives your doctor a clearer idea of whether your current treatment is working.

Bring a friend or relative for support

When preparing for an upcoming appointment, it’s okay to bring a friend or relative for support. If you’re hesitant to talk to your doctor about MDD, you may feel comfortable opening up if you have support in the room with you.

This person isn’t meant to be your voice or speak in your behalf. But if you’ve shared your feelings and experiences with this individual, they can help you remember important details about your condition as your talk with your doctor.

Your doctor may also give advice or suggestions during the appointment. The person who accompanies you can take notes and help you recall these suggestions later.

Find a different doctor

Some doctors are highly familiar with mental health illnesses and they show their patients a great deal of compassion. However, others aren’t so compassionate.

If you take antidepressants but feel your particular medication isn’t working, don’t allow a doctor to brush off your concerns or downplay the seriousness of your condition. You have to be your own advocate. So if your current doctor doesn’t take you seriously or listen to your concerns, find another.

Educate yourself

Educating yourself on MDD makes it easier to bring up this topic with your doctor. If you’re unfamiliar with depression, you may fear the stigma of being labeled with a mental illness. Education is important because it helps you appreciate that these illnesses are common and that you’re not alone.

Some people suffer from depression silently. These can include your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. Because many people don’t talk about their depression, it’s easy to forget how widespread this condition is. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, MDD “affects more than 15 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.”

Learning about your illness can empower you and give you confidence to seek help.

Come prepared with questions

As you educate yourself on MDD, create a list of questions for your doctor. Some doctors are fantastic at providing their patients with useful information. But it’s impossible for your doctor to share every single piece of information about your illness.

If you have any questions, write them down and share them with your doctor on your next appointment. Maybe you have questions about joining local support groups. Or maybe you’ve read about the benefits of combining certain supplements with antidepressants. If so, ask your doctor to recommend safe supplements.

Depending on the severity of your depression, you can inquire about other therapies for depression, such as electroconvulsion therapy to alter your brain chemistry. Your doctor may also be aware of clinical trials you can participate in.

The takeaway

You can find relief for depression. Recovery and moving on with your life involves open and honest discussions with your doctor. There’s no reason to feel embarrassed or think you’re a burden. Your doctor is there to help. If one therapy isn’t effective, another may provide better results.

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