Although very common, depression is often ignored or misdiagnosed and left untreated. Such inattention can be life-threatening; major depression, in particular, has a high suicide rate.
If you or a loved one have symptoms of depression, seek help from a qualified health care provider. Many primary care doctors diagnose and treat depression. Screenings for depression are now often part of a routine visit to your doctor. But if your symptoms get significantly worse or do not improve within four to eight weeks of treatment, ask your health care provider for a referral to a psychiatrist for diagnosis and treatment. Clearly, for more severe symptoms -- and always if you have thoughts about death or hurting yourself or someone else -- you should see a psychiatrist as soon as possible.
To diagnose depression, your health care provider will ask you questions about your symptoms and family history. You may be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your symptoms. You may be given medical tests to rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms, such as nutrient deficiencies, underactive thyroid or hormone levels, or reactions to drugs (either prescription or recreational) and/or alcohol.
What Are the Treatments for Depression?
The stigma depression carries drives many people to hide it, try to tough it out, or misuse alcohol, drugs, or herbal remedies to get relief. To effectively treat depression, it is important to seek care from a health care provider such as your primary care doctor or a licensed mental health professional. Both of these types of providers can help you get a correct diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. Many treatments for depression are available and typically include a combination of psychotherapy and medication.
Psychotherapy teaches patients how to overcome negative attitudes and feelings and helps them return to normal activities.
Drug therapy is intended to treat symptoms that are thought to result from abnormalities in brain circuits that regulate mood, thinking and behavior. It may take several weeks for an antidepressant to fully work to ease depression symptoms, so it's important to stay on the medication.
As with any chronic illness, getting an early medical diagnosis and medical treatment may help reduce the intensity and duration of depression symptoms. It may also reduce the likelihood of a relapse.