The first step towards coping with depression is to seek treatment, but for many people that's not an easy first step.
Psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Schwartz joins us now to help shed some light on this topic. Now, Dr. Schwartz, first off, what are some of the signs that let us know we need to start seeking treatments?
Well, I think the typical signs of depression are sadness and loss of enjoyment, and the key would be, when do they start interfering with your life?
I think at that point you have to say like any medical condition, this hurts enough, and I think that's the trigger to start asking questions about getting help.
Now, why do some people find it so hard to take that first step and actually seek the treatment?
I think first of all there is an issue of access to care. There're, obviously, places in this country where there are no mental health specialists or providers.
If you have a general doctor, often you can start there, but some people don't have general doctors either.
So one issue is a lack of people you can see. I think other things come up too. Some people feel they're weak. They have poor character.
Their depression is just not a good thing. They're embarrassed to bring it up or shy to bring it up.
Part of that, unfortunately, is a symptom of depression where people will feel extreme guilt or worthlessness. Their self-esteem would be low.
I think all of those things can interfere with patients seeking appropriate care.
So, if you suspect you suffer from depression, who should you talk to first, a friend, a family member, a doctor?
I think any of those are good choices. I think you should talk to somebody and whoever you're most comfortable with.
Some people are actually not very comfortable talking to their spouse or significant other, but more comfortable talking to the more neutral general doctor.
So, I think the one word of advice is talk to any of those people. And then you can go from there, depending how complicated your depression is.
Now what are some of the important questions to ask when you're approaching a mental help specialist?
A couple of things, if you're looking for psychotherapy, you really don't want to be on a medication, then you're going to want to ask for a clinical social worker or a clinical psychologist.
So these are the CSW and the PhDs. Cause these are the ones who will do the talk therapy, the psychotherapy.
If you're leaning more towards medication, you're really going to want to talk to your general doctor or ask for a psychiatrist, but of which are medical doctors.
Now I know ehen people are depressed they are not quite themselves. Do you recommend that they have someone navigate the process with them?
I think the more sever a depression is–people with very severe depression may not get out of bed, may not feed themselves, often may not think straight to even make their appointments on time.
So, the more severe of a depression somebody has, I think you do clearly have to involve other people.
I think the milder depression, is some people function very well, doing their own thing at their own pace.
So I think it's a question of severity and yes the folks in the middle I think you have to gauge what they need and what will make their treatment effective.
For the folks who find it difficult to make that first step, what advice do you have for them?
Just make the first step! It's very interesting, if you talk to people who are depressed, they usually do suffer, not just for two weeks, sometimes, it's 2-3 years before they seek treatment.
So, my advice is, just do it. Just get yourself in, if you're that impaired, start asking questions. And whatever is within your comfort range, you get the ball rolling and get treatment.
That's good advice! Thanks so much Dr. Schwartz! Please join us again for the next episode of 'Depression in Focus'.