Best Way to Get Help for Depression

Finding effective treatment for depression often starts with a visit to a health professional who specializes in pri­mary care, typically a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. You know that fluctuations in mood are a normal part of life, but you may not be sure how to distinguish between ordinary sadness and depression that’s serious enough to warrant medical treatment or counseling. Talking with your doctor can help you decide.

Choosing a Doctor

Doctors frequently help patients deal with depression. The key is to choose one who makes you feel comfortable when discussing your problems and who is skilled in diagnosing and treating depression. If after talking to your doctor you don’t feel confident that the two of you can form a part­nership to manage your depression, you may want to try someone else.

Depression1 Best Way to Get Help for Depression

Communicating with your doctor

Talking with your doctor isn’t always easy. The two of you may sometimes have different ideas about what’s impor­tant. You may be nervous, or you may worry that you have a serious rnedical problem but feel afraid to ask about it. Maybe you want to discuss something but feel embar­rassed to bring it up. Or you may be convinced that you’ll never feel better. Many people feel their doctor is always in a hurry and doesn’t have enough time for them.

What are your options?

If either you or your doctor thinks you could benefit from a more specialized program or from counseling, referral to a mental health specialist might be a good idea.

In some circumstances, you may choose to go outside your health plan for specialized care. For example, you may want a second opinion. Or your health plan may not cover the particular treatment or therapist you prefer. In these situations, keep in mind that you may have to pay the full cost of your treatment. If you are not in a managed care plan, you should check with your provider regarding your coverage. There is often a limit on yearly mental health care coverage.

If your insurance plan doesn’t cover the cost of coun­seling and you can’t afford it on your own, you should explore other options. Your doctor should be able to sup­ply you with information about community-sponsored or low-cost counseling programs—and also about depres­sion support groups.

Developing a plan together

Your plan for managing depression is likely to include changes in your lifestyle and, in many cases, prescription antidepressant medicine as well. Your doctor may give you specific suggestions on how to deal with your problems and encourage activities that make you feel better. He or she may also focus on adjusting the dosage of your antide­pressant. When you start feeling better consistently, you will not need to see your doctor so often. But if you have concerns or problems, call the office or write them down for your next visit. Do not stop taking your medicine without first having a discussion with your health care provider.

What If You Have Additional Questions?

Ask them. It’s common to have new questions once you get home. For example, you may have thought you knew all you needed to know when your doctor explained how an antidepressant worked. But what if your partner or someone else close to you raises additional questions that you hadn’t considered?

Depression 1 Best Way to Get Help for Depression

It’s best to write down your questions and call your doctor’s office as soon as possible, with the understanding that you may talk with a nurse or an assistant. You can also ask your pharmacist questions about your medicine. And there are lots of outside resources, such as books and videotapes. Your public library is a good place to look for these. Members of your family are likely to share your concerns and questions, so you might invite them to join you in gathering information.

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