What's Stopping You From Seeing a Doctor About Depression?
Common reasons people avoid treatment and expert advice on how to get past them.
Mary Anne Dunkin WebMD Feature
Joseph Goldberg, MD
Are you struggling with depression? Are you getting treatment for it? If not, you’re not alone. About two-thirds of people with major depression never seek appropriate treatment, and the consequences can be devastating: personal suffering, missed work, broken marriages, health problems and, in the worst cases, death.
The World Health Organization ranks depression as one of the world’s most disabling diseases. Yet with treatment, 70% of people with clinical depression can improve, often in a matter of weeks.
So what keeps us from seeking help? “It’s hard to find out from folks why they are not coming [for treatment], because if they are not coming, they can’t tell us,” says Kate Muller, PsyD. “But when they do finally get to our offices, they can certainly speak about the things that might have kept them from coming initially.”
Major Depression: Reasons Why People Avoid Treatment
If you feel depressed and are trying to deal with it on your own, see if any of these reasons ring true to you. If they do, then follow the experts’ advice to get the help you need.
If I give it time, I’ll snap out of it. Although a case of the blues passes with time, clinical depression may linger indefinitely if not treated, says Erik Nelson, MD. People can’t just snap out of being depressed. Sometimes depression has a biological cause. And like other medical conditions, it often requires treatment to control or heal it.
Waiting for depression to simply pass can be harmful for a number of reasons. For one, depression that goes untreated may become more severe, Nelson says. The longer the delay in treatment, the more difficult it may be to control, and the more likely it is to recur when treatment is stopped. There also is growing evidence that untreated depression can contribute to or worsen other medical problems. “Heart disease is the one that has been most linked to depression, but research also suggests a link between depression and metabolic issues such as obesity, diabetes, and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer,” Nelson says.
Expert advice: Don’t allow depression to linger. Speak to your doctor. If you find it difficult to seek treatment for a mental disorder, remember that treatment for it may help prevent serious health conditions like heart disease.
I don’t want to take antidepressants. “Sometimes I think what keeps people from coming in to see us is that they’re afraid they’ll have to take a pill,” Muller says. “They think, ‘I don’t want to take a pill for the rest of my life.’”
Although antidepressants are effective against depression, treatment for depression doesn’t always involve medication. “We have psychotherapies these days that are as effective, so if you are depressed, medication may not be the only option,” Muller says.