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Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Depression Symptoms

Do your symptoms indicate depression -- or something else? Ask these questions to find out.
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WebMD Feature

Sadness. Irritability. Obsessive thoughts. Extreme moods. The symptoms of depression, anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder often seem the same. It's not always easy for doctors to determine which mood disorder, or combination, a patient has. Here are some questions that will help both you and your doctor understand what you have:

What are symptoms of depression?
By discussing the symptoms, you can gain insight into yourself. You may recognize symptoms you didn't realize were a problem. Your doctor will understand you better, and be able to treat you more effectively.

What are symptoms of anxiety disorder?
You may realize that what you are feeling could be anxiety disorder. Keep in mind, people can have anxiety along with another mood disorder such as depression. So it's important to know if you have coexisting conditions. That will affect the treatment your doctor recommends. Also, understanding the type of anxiety disorder you have will help your doctor give you the best treatment.

What are symptoms of bipolar disorder? What is mania?
Bipolar disorder causes severe highs and lows, and many different symptoms. By discussing these symptoms with your doctor, you may recognize a pattern of mania and depression. Bipolar depression is not treated in the same way as standard depression. Effective treatment depends on the right diagnosis. Even with treatment, it's possible to have breakthrough symptoms, so it's important to know which symptoms to watch for.

How often do the different symptoms usually appear?
It's important that you understand the pattern of your symptoms -- how frequently they occur, whether they occur together or at different times, whether they affect how you function in life. By keeping track of this pattern, you can help your doctor determine if you have a more complicated illness like bipolar disorder. Most people with bipolar disorder can stabilize their moods with proper treatment. However, occasionally mood changes can occur despite treatment. It's important for people with bipolar disorder to stay in regular contact with their doctor in case a change in the treatment plan is necessary.

Can the symptoms go away on their own?
By asking this, you give your doctor a chance to discuss each symptom, what you can expect, and the risks of not getting treatment.

Do I need to take medications for treatment, and are other options available?
This question will give your doctor an opportunity to discuss the various treatments for these disorders -- medications, therapy, exercise, meditation, etc.

When will I begin feeling differently?
It's important to ask this question. Too many patients quit taking medications too soon -- before they take full effect. Your doctor can discuss what to expect from your treatment, and when.

What should I tell friends and family about my illness?
Emotional illness is a sensitive subject that many people have trouble discussing. By asking your doctor how to handle this, you'll get needed support that can make your life easier.

Reviewed on January 21, 2010

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