Depression

If you've felt sad and listless for any length of time, you're not alone. About 7 percent of adult Americans suffer from depression in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Depression can be brought on by biochemistry as well as the loss of a loved one, unemployment, or even a bout of ill health. Although research has shown time and again how our feelings can affect health, many people fail to talk about their depression with a doctor. You can enlist your doctor in the battle against depression by talking about your feelings. These questions may help start the discussion and allow you to find answers.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • What are the signs and symptoms of depression?
  • What causes depression?
  • How long do these symptoms have to last before I suspect I'm depressed?
  • How is depression treated?
  • Will I need to have any blood tests? (A blood test will show whether you have any illnesses or medical conditions, such as a thyroid disorder, that could cause symptoms of depression.)
  • How will I receive the test results?
  • Who will explain the test results to me?
  • Is there someone in your office who can answer my questions? When is the best time to call?
  • What kind of medications might help my depression?
  • What are the common side effects of the medications for depression?
  • What can I expect to see if the medication is working?
  • How long do I need to take the medication before I can expect to see results? Will I need to take it from now on?
  • What can I do to lift my depression if I don't want to take medication?
  • Do I need to see a therapist or counselor?
  • How often and how long should I see a therapist?
  • Would you recommend group therapy?
  • Can you recommend a support group?
  • Could my depression be caused by a chronic condition?
  • How common is depression among older people?
  • Is it possible to avoid or prevent depression?
  • When is my next checkup?
  • Can you recommend a health Web site for further research on depression?

Questions Your Doctor May Ask You

  • How long have you experienced symptoms of depression? (Symptoms might include fatigue, tearfulness, loss of appetite, sleeping too much or too little, loss of motivation to do things you normally enjoy, a sense of hopelessness or helplessness, and thoughts of suicide.)
  • Can you recall what was going on in your life around the time you became depressed?
  • Have you been diagnosed with depression before? Have you ever been hospitalized for depression?
  • Have you seen a doctor or psychiatrist before for your depression?
  • If not, who gave you the diagnosis of depression?
  • Have you ever seen a therapist or counselor? For how long?
  • Have you had thoughts of committing suicide? How often?
  • How well are you sleeping? Is it hard for you to get out of bed? Are you eating regularly?
  • Have you taken prescription medication for depression? What was it and how long did you take it?
  • What other kinds of prescription or over-the-counter medications are you taking?
  • Do you suffer from any chronic conditions? Have you had a recent illness?
  • Does anyone else in your family suffer from depression? Has anyone been treated or hospitalized for depression?
  • Has anyone in your family committed suicide?
  • Do you drink alcohol or use drugs?

References

National Institute of Mental Health. The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America. November 2010.

Depression. University of Michigan Health System. June 1998.

Pharmacotherapy companion to the depression clinical practice guideline.

American Health Care Association/American Medical Directors Association. 1998.

National Institute of Mental Health. Depression: What Every Woman Should Know. October 2005.

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