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Depression Health Center

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What's Stopping You From Seeing a Doctor About Depression?

Common reasons people avoid treatment and expert advice on how to get past them.

Major Depression: Reasons Why People Avoid Treatment continued...

In these cases, a doctor may diagnose depression based on other symptoms, particularly decreased interest in or loss of pleasure from favorite activities.

Expert advice: If you are having symptoms such as fatigue, muscle pain, or loss of interest in activities you love, don’t rule out depression as a cause. See your doctor.

I’m embarrassed to talk to my doctor about it. “The shame of having a mental health problem keeps folks from seeking help or even talking about suffering from depression,” says Bob Livingstone, author of The Body Mind Soul Solution: Healing Emotional Pain Through Exercise. But depression is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a medical condition, much like diabetes or high cholesterol, which requires treatment.

It is also a very common condition. Depressive disorders affect nearly 19 million people in the U.S. every year -- regardless of gender, age, race, religion, sexuality, income, or education. So there’s a good chance your doctor won’t hear anything from you that she hasn’t heard many times before.

Expert advice: Remember that virtually everyone experiences depression at some point, and your doctor will not repeat anything that you share during an office visit. Still, if speaking to your own doctor is embarrassing, find out if your health insurance has someone you can speak with first by phone. If you don’t have insurance coverage for mental health, check out mental health services in your community.

I’m afraid of having to talk about painful subjects in therapy. “Depressed people avoid treatment for fear of having to undergo a probing examination of their psychological pain,” says Joe Wegmann, a licensed clinical social worker in Metairie, La.

“They have a fear of opening it all up -- ‘I don’t want to go there,’” Kate Muller says. Unfortunately, in some cases, getting into painful discussions is necessary for healing, she says. “But in other cases, it doesn’t have to be as deep or scary as you might think. A good therapist understands what is like for someone to open up to a stranger and will guide you through that process. He won’t push you to open up too quickly or at a level you are not comfortable with.”

Expert advice: Find a therapist you feel comfortable with and ask him as many questions as he asks you, Muller says. Find out what therapy will be like. Although painful discussions may be necessary in time, your therapist cannot force you. What you reveal is up to you.

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Reviewed on September 14, 2012

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