Talking about your mental health can be hard. And talking about it with your doctor can be intimidating. But don’t be discouraged — if you haven’t been feeling like yourself for a while, you might be thinking it’s time to have a conversation with your doctor about your symptoms. In this article, we'll discuss the importance of seeking help for depression, who can diagnose depression, and how to talk to your doctor about it.
When to seek help for depression
Depression isn’t just a bout of the blues that you can “snap out of.” We all feel down sometimes, but persistent feelings of sadness that interfere with your day-to-day life are signs that you might need professional help. Some common symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
What should I say to my doctor about my depression?
Be honest and be direct. Before your next appointment, start keeping track of your symptoms so you can clearly communicate what you’ve been experiencing and how they’re affecting your life. Here are some other tips for talking to your doctor about depression:
- Be specific about your symptoms and how long you have been experiencing them
- Describe how your symptoms are impacting your daily life
- Be honest about any past or current mental health treatment you have received
- Ask questions about treatment options and what you can expect from treatment
- Be open to suggestions and treatment recommendations
How does a doctor check your mental health?
Most doctors offices screen for depression at your yearly check up using the PHQ-9. The survey asks questions about your function and mood, such as your interest in doing things, your energy and appetite levels, and your ability to concentrate. The answers provided will be used to determine if your doctor can make a diagnosis.
Before confirming a diagnosis, your doctor will rule out other potential related health issues through a physical examination. Sometimes, depression can affect your body, so it’s important for your doctor to rule out other possible causes. This helps ensure you get the right treatment for your condition.
Questions to ask your doctor about depression
While your doctor will likely provide information during your screening, it's essential to be proactive and inquire about critical aspects of your depression once a preliminary diagnosis is made.
- What kind of depression do I have?
- What are my treatment options?
- Could my depression be causing me physical pain?
- Do I need medication to treat my depression? What are the side effects of the medication?
- What lifestyle changes can I make to treat my depression?
- What should I do in case of a mental health emergency?
- Are there any alternative or complementary treatments for depression that may be beneficial?
- How can I monitor my progress in managing my depression?
- When should I schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss my progress or any concerns I may have?
Referral to therapists, psychiatrists, and other options
Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions, and there are several treatment options you might consider. Psychotherapy is a common treatment option that uses a variety of techniques to help you identify and change unhealthy emotions, thoughts, and behaviors through having conversations with a mental health professional. SonderMind makes it easy to connect with a therapist, and in some states, psychiatrists, too — fill out this short form to get started.
Between therapy, lifestyle changes, and perhaps even medication, your doctor can help devise a plan that’s best for you.
Depression is more than just a bout of the blues. Even if there doesn’t seem to be a reason for it, don’t ignore your symptoms. Start the conversation with your doctor — the sooner you can get help, the sooner you can start to feel better.