If you think you have depression, the first step you need to take is to make an appointment with your primary care physician.
Before your appointment, you should get an in-depth family history. You should also include any symptoms and behaviors, whether they seem related or not, as well as personal information including stress, life changes and lifestyle habits (exercise, diet, sleep, alcohol & drug use). The doctor will also ask for all medications, vitamins and supplements, both prescribed and over-the-counter, that you are taking. It is usually best to sit down and write out this information before your appointment, to insure that you remember everything.
During your appointment, your doctor will ask a lot of questions. Many of these questions may seem extremely personal, but you need to answer them as honestly as possible. The doctors won’t judge you, they want to make sure you get the help you need. The doctor may do a physical exam to rule out a physical health problem. They may also do lab test including a blood test to check your thyroid. An overactive or underactive thyroid will also present the same symptoms as depression. You might also have to have a psychological evaluation. Don’t hesitate to ask questions anytime you don’t understand anything.
To be diagnosed with depression, you must meet the symptom criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association. This manual is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment. As previously discussed, major depression is characterized as having more than 5 of the symptoms discussed in a previous post, for over a 2 week period.
If you see your primary care physician, get referrals for a psychiatrist and/or a psychologist. I will go into more detail on the differences between the two in another post.
If you are diagnosed with depression, seek the help that you need. Be your own advocate & realize you are not alone.