Depression Red Flags: When To See Your Doctor
Depression is a serious illness that requires medical attention. Unfortunately many people who are living with a depressive illness do not seek treatment. Depression can be successfully managed with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. The earlier a person with a depressive illness begins treatment, the more successful it is and the greater the chance that recurrence can be prevented.
The first step to getting appropriate treatment is to see your doctor at the first signs of depressive symptoms. Certain medications and medical conditions such as thyroid disorder can cause the same symptoms as depression. A doctor can rule out these possibilities by conducting a physical exam, an interview, and lab tests.
The following is a list of signs and symptoms that may indicate a person has a depressive illness. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, make an appointment with a physician as soon as possible. If you or a loved one is struggling with feelings of self-harm or suicide, seek medical attention immediately.
Signs that you should see your doctor:
When Should You See A Doctor For Anxiety
As life-disrupting and misery-creating as anxiety can be, its often difficult to know when you should see a doctor about anxiety symptoms. Learning when you need anxiety help will help you feel more confident and less anxious about your decision. Use the following information to help you decide if and when you should see a doctor for anxiety.
If you worry about your anxiety symptoms and wonder if you should see a doctor, then maybe you also worry if seeing a doctor would be silly or pointless because maybe your anxiety isn’t actually that bad. This type of worry is a common feature of anxiety known as meta-anxiety, or anxiety about your anxiety.
For those of us who have experienced it, meta-anxiety is not only obnoxious but can be paralyzing. Having anxiety about when you should see a doctor for anxiety can get in the way of treatment. There are times when a trip to the doctor to discuss your anxiety is a very good idea that can help you move forward past anxiety.
Youre Thinking About Suicide
If youre thinking about hurting yourself, about death or suicide, or youre actively planning to end your life, its important to seek immediate help. You might reach out to a suicide prevention hotline or visit the emergency room for mental health support.
Depression can be treated more aggressively until these urges go away at a psychiatric hospital, explains Lisa Anderson, an LCSW in Nashville, Tennessee who has experience working in psychiatric hospitals.
Sometimes, starting an antidepressant medication or changing your antidepressant prescription can cause suicidal thoughts or make them worse.
Suicidal ideation can be active or passive. Passive ideation means youre having thoughts of suicide or dying, but you dont have an intent or will to act on them, and therefore you dont have a plan to do so. Active ideation means you have a plan.
Speaking with a mental health professional can help with all types of suicidal ideation.
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What Is Samhsa’s National Helpline
SAMHSAs National Helpline, , or TTY: is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
Also visit the online treatment locator.
Preparing For A Health Appointment
Talking to health professionals may be intimidating, but you and your health professional do need to work together. Remember, your doctor can’t provide the best information if they don’t know what the problem is, and they can’t offer the best-suited treatment options if they dont know your goals or concerns. Here is a checklist to help keep you on track during your appointments.
Before the appointment
PlanThink of what you want to tell your doctor or what you want to learn from your health professional at this appointment. Decide what is the most important to you. If you have particular questions, write them down. You can bring your list to the appointment. If you take any medication, including over-the-counter medication, plan to bring it with you.
During the appointment
ReportTell your doctor what you want to talk about during this appointment
Exchange informationMake sure you tell the doctor whats wrong. It may be helpful to bring in a self-test youve completed or a diary of symptoms. Remember to explain how your problem affects your day-to-day life. You can bring a loved one with you, and they can help describe changes theyve noticed.
ParticipateTalk with your doctor about the different ways to handle your health problem. Make sure you understand the positive and negative features of your choices. Ask as many questions as you need.
AgreeBe sure that you and your doctor agree on a treatment plan that you can live with.
When First Line Treatment Doesnt Help
When someone reaches out for help due to persistent depression they are usually first seen by a medical physician or mental health professional. The doctor can rule out a possible medical condition that could be causing the mood disorder. If there is no evidence of a physical cause, the individual is referred to a psychiatrist who will likely prescribe antidepressant medication therapy and psychotherapy .
In a large number of people this traditional treatment protocol is ineffective. If the condition continues to deteriorate, the depression can become very serious. With the significant increase in suicide rates in recent years, it is important to take more aggressive action for worsening depression. A residential or inpatient rehab for depression treatment program can provide a much more targeted and comprehensive treatment approach for individuals suffering from depression.
Where Can I Get More Information About Depression In Children And Teens
American Psychiatric Association
NAMINational Alliance for the Mentally Ill
Colonial Place Three
2107 Wilson Blvd., Suite 300
Arlington VA 22201-3042
Federation of Families for Children’s
1101 King St., Suite 420
Alexandria VA 22314
National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association
730 N. Franklin St., Suite 501
Chicago IL 60610-3526
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Rule Out Other Conditions
If you identify with the symptoms of depression, your next step should be a visit to your family doctor or general practitioner for a thorough exam and screening. Your provider will ask you about your health history and risk factors and may use written questionnaires to assess your symptoms.
Your family doctor or general practitioner will also want to rule out several medical conditions that can contribute to symptoms of depression, such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, female hormonal changes, and thyroid conditions. In addition, several medications may have depressive symptoms as a side effect.
If your general practitioner doesn’t find any of these factors as a cause of your depression, they may prescribe an antidepressant or refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor.
In 2017, an estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States experienced at least one episode of severe depression, or 7.1% of all adults. For adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 years old, the percentage is even higher, with an estimated 3.2 million adolescents in the U.S. experiencing at least one major depressive episode in a year.
Are There Physical Signs Of Depression
Yes. In fact, a great many people with depression come to their doctor first with only physical issues. You might notice:
- Back pain
- Gut problems
- Constant tiredness
- Sleep problems
- Slowing of physical movement and thinking
You might notice these symptoms and signs even before you notice the mental health symptoms of depression, or you might notice them at the same time. Your doctor can help you figure out the source of your symptoms.
Which Lab Tests Can Help Make The Depression Diagnosis
After reviewing the information from your appointment, including the signs and symptoms, patient history, family history, and physician exam, your doctor may ask for some lab tests to rule out a physical condition that may be causing your symptoms. Certain viruses, medicines, hormonal or vitamin deficiencies, and illnesses can cause depression-like symptoms. Your doctor will also want to review all medications youâre taking as well as the alcohol or recreational drugs you may be using.
Sticking With Your Treatment Plan
Once you’ve arrived at a treatment plan that works, it’s important to stick with it. For many treatments, this means continuing treatment even when you start to feel better.
Suddenly stopping a medication like an antidepressant can cause uncomfortable side effects. If you want to stop taking the medication, your doctor can help you taper your doses slowly to make sure you continue to feel well.
If your treatment plan no longer works for you, have an honest discussion with your health care professional. Your doctor can help you re-evaluate your treatment plan and move to a different strategy safely.
Working With Your Doctor When You Have Depression
Talking to your health professional about depression is a very important first step in your journey to wellness. Once you’ve received a diagnosis, you and your health professional will need to build a treatment plan that works for you. This is vitalif your treatment plan doesn’t address your own needs and concerns, you may not see the benefits in areas of your life that are most important to you.
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Emerging Trends In Substance Misuse:
- MethamphetamineIn 2019, NSDUH data show that approximately 2 million people used methamphetamine in the past year. Approximately 1 million people had a methamphetamine use disorder, which was higher than the percentage in 2016, but similar to the percentages in 2015 and 2018. The National Institute on Drug Abuse Data shows that overdose death rates involving methamphetamine have quadrupled from 2011 to 2017. Frequent meth use is associated with mood disturbances, hallucinations, and paranoia.
- CocaineIn 2019, NSDUH data show an estimated 5.5 million people aged 12 or older were past users of cocaine, including about 778,000 users of crack. The CDC reports that overdose deaths involving have increased by one-third from 2016 to 2017. In the short term, cocaine use can result in increased blood pressure, restlessness, and irritability. In the long term, severe medical complications of cocaine use include heart attacks, seizures, and abdominal pain.
- KratomIn 2019, NSDUH data show that about 825,000 people had used Kratom in the past month. Kratom is a tropical plant that grows naturally in Southeast Asia with leaves that can have psychotropic effects by affecting opioid brain receptors. It is currently unregulated and has risk of abuse and dependence. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that health effects of Kratom can include nausea, itching, seizures, and hallucinations.
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You Feel Like Nothing Is Helping You Feel Better
If therapy or psychiatric treatment have not been working and you are falling into a worse state, it may be time to move into a setting that has the resources and bandwidth to respond to any situation the depression might provoke, explains Nima Fahimian, MD, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of California, Riverside.
Have You Been In Treatment Before Or Will This Be Your First Time
If you’ve never had mental health treatment before, and you’re interested in trying medication, your primary care physician’s office is often the best place to start your journey.
Its less intimidating to go to your doctors office than to go to a mental health clinic. And if you have a good relationship with your doctor, its probably easier to talk to them than to reach out to someone youve never talked to before.
If you havent yet learned through trial and error what does and doesnt work for you, it makes sense to start with the most straightforward options and medicationswhich are also likely the ones your PCP will be comfortable prescribing.
On the other hand, if youve been in treatment before, you probably already know a little more about what works for you and what you want. In this case, it can still be a good choice to go to your PCP, especially if they were the one who treated you before and if that treatment was at least somewhat successful.
But at this point, it might make more sense to see a psychiatrist, especially if your first attempt with a PCP wasnt very successful. Primary care doctors have less specialized training in mental health than psychiatrists, and they arent always comfortable making clinical judgement calls about psychiatric treatment when their patients want to go beyond the basics.
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Are You Sure You Want To Take Medication Or Are You Still Deciding
If youre sure you want to take medication, it makes more sense to start with a PCP than if youre not sure whether medication is right for you.
In most cases, a primary care doctor is more likely to recommend medication than therapy.
While primary care doctors use many tools, medication is often their primary clinical tool and it is likely to be the first thing they recommend. All PCPs have some training in mental health, but most lack the level of specialized training to know when a patient is less likely to respond to medication.
Psychiatrists specialize in medication-based treatment, but theyre more familiar with therapy and other treatment options than most PCPs and may even offer multiple forms of treatment themselves. Due to high patient volumes and the changing nature of the mental health field, fewer psychiatrists provide therapy today than in the pastbut some still do.
Even when psychiatrists don’t offer therapy, they can usually recognize when it would be helpful instead of or in addition to medication.
Psychiatrists also have more specialized knowledge about which kinds of therapists or therapy methods work best for a patients specific needs. In many cases, they can refer you to a therapist they personally recommend.
While we always recommend seeing a professional for help with decisions like this, we also recommend reading our article on Therapy vs. Medication for more guidance if youre not sure whether medication or therapy is the better choice for you.
Should I Go To The Doctor About Anxiety
A question people ask me a lot is:
“Should I go to the doctor about my anxiety?”
Asking yourself this question is common. Why? Because there is a tonne of stuff to think about when deciding to go to the doctor or not. And, as a worrier, you are going to obsess over these reasons more than most.
In this guide, I will take you through all of the pros and cons of going to see your doctor about your anxiety.
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Depression Treatment: Staying Positive
Your attitudes and beliefs are also important when it comes to depression treatment. Papakostas explains that a person who believes that medication and therapy can work has a higher chance of healing than someone who doesn’t have the same positive attitude. This is true in other medical fields as well.
Some people believe things that just aren’t backed by the evidence, he says. That’s another reason why it’s important to share any doubts you may have heard something about depression treatment that just isn’t true. “Having beliefs that are very pessimist and unrealistic — and not feeling comfortable discussing them with one’s doctor — may, in fact, get in the way of treatment,” says Papakostas. Your doctor can explain the facts and help you understand how and why treatment can work for you.
Path To Improved Health
Below are some common illnesses and problems we may deal with from time to time. Many of them can be managed at home. But sometimes they can progress or change, and then its best if they are addressed by a doctor. If you arent sure what to do, call your doctor. He or she, or even a nurse in the office, can tell you if you should make an appointment.
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What Are The Signs Of Depression
Its normal to feel sad sometimes, but if you feel sad or down on most days for more than 2 weeks at a time, you may be depressed.
Depression affects people differently. Some signs of depression are:
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling hopeless or empty
- Forgetting things or having trouble making decisions
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Gaining or losing weight without meaning to
- Thinking about suicide or death
Preparing For Your Appointment
Before the appointment it might be helpful to write down what you’d like to talk about to make sure that you don’t forget anything. Take a few minutes before the appointment to write up a list of things you might want to bring up.
Write down any symptoms of how you’re feeling and how your mood might be affecting you day-to-day life.
Write down key personal information, including upsetting events in your past and any current major stressful events.
Make a list of your medical information, including other physical or mental health conditions and the names and amounts of medications, herbal remedies or supplements you take.
Feel free to take a family member or friend along to your appointment for support if it will help you feel more at ease.
Write down a list of questions to ask. These may include:
- what type of mental health problem might I have?
- why can’t I get over my mental health problem on my own?
- how do you treat my type of mental illness?
- will counselling or psychotherapy help?
- are there medications that might help?
- how long will treatment take?
- what can I do to help myself?
- do you have any brochures or other printed material that I can have?
- what websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions that you’ve prepared, don’t hesitate to ask questions to your GP if you don’t understand something.
You aren’t alone
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