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Depression: Where to Seek Care

The first step in treating depression is recognizing that you are clinically depressed, which is a syndrome of both physical and emotional symptoms that is different from just normal everyday sadness. The second step is seeking help. These two steps may in fact be the hardest part of the entire treatment process. Once you seek help from a qualified health care provider, you will find that there are numerous treatment options to help you get back on track.

Early recognition and treatment will offer you the greatest chance of recovery, and the earlier you seek help the greater the chance that recurrences can be prevented.

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Where to Go For Help

Once you decide to seek medical help, start with your primary care doctor. He or she can evaluate you to make sure that medicines or another illness are not the source of your symptoms.

Your doctor may prescribe treatment or may refer you to a mental health care professional who can perform a thorough assessment and recommend appropriate treatment.

Which Health Care Providers Treat Depression?

Health care providers in many different specialties are trained to identify depression. The following are general health care providers who are qualified to treat depression:

  • Physician: Doctors (MD or DO) who are not psychiatrists but are skilled in primary care medicine (for example internal medicine, family practice) and have some training in treating mental or psychiatric problems can help treat depression. Physicians usually recommend specialized care for patients with more than mild symptoms of depression.
  • Physician assistant: These medical health care providers are trained to identify symptoms of depression and have some training in treating mental or psychiatric disorders under the supervision of a physician.
  • Nurse practitioner: These health care providers are registered nurses (RNs) with added nursing training and some training in treating mental or psychiatric problems.
  • Psychiatrist: These are medical doctors (MD or DO) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental or psychiatric illnesses. Psychiatrists are licensed to prescribe drugs as part of their treatment regimen and are also trained in psychotherapy, a form of "talking" therapy.
  • Psychologist: These are doctoral degree (PhD or PsyD) experts in psychology and are trained in counseling, psychotherapy, and psychological testing. Psychologists are not medical doctors and are therefore not licensed to prescribe medicines to treat mental illnesses except in several states where legislation permits them to do so.
  • Social worker: These are specialists who provide mental health services for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of depression and other mental or psychiatric illness in individuals, families and groups. Their goal is to enhance and maintain a person's physical, psychological and social functioning.
  • Psychiatric nurse specialists: These are registered nurses (RNs) who are educated in psychiatric nursing and specialize in treating mental or psychiatric illnesses.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on May 31, 2014

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