When Should You See a Doctor for Depression?

When Should You See a Doctor for Depression?

Depression is a mental health disorder that affects mood, motivation, behavior and thought patterns. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) website lists the symptoms as persistent sadness, anxiety, guilt, hopelessness, fatigue, energy loss and emptiness. Depression is also a common disorder. The 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimates that nearly 16 million adults had a major depressive episode in the past year, and more than 30 million adults have had at least one episode in their lifetime. Despite the widespread prevalence of this issue, ABC News reported in 2007 that only half of the people with depression get proper treatment.

The high rates of untreated depression suggest it is better to see a doctor if there is any question of having the disorder, but the following signs should prompt a doctor’s visit:

  • Rapid drop in self-esteem accompanied by corrosive self-loathing and feelings of defeat
  • Mood levels remain consistently negative without relief
  • Dramatic unhealthy changes in eating, sleeping, grooming and work habits
  • Social withdrawal motivated by a lack of interest in people and activities that previously brought joy

Mental health stigmas, denial or even a lack of motivation caused by the depression can keep people from the doctor, but people should visit a medical professional for the following reasons:

  • Depression is a treatable disorder that will otherwise inhibit people in their daily lives
  • Untreated depression can contribute to other physical and mental health risks
  • The symptoms may actually be signs of other physical or mental health problems
  • Persistent depressive disorder, psychotic depression and other variations can be especially serious if left untreated

Depression is also associated with substance abuse. In 2007, the National Institute of Drug Abuse suggested that up to 60% of addicts have a co-occurring mental health disorder, while the aforementioned NSDUH report said currently depressed individuals were nearly five times as likely to abuse illicit drugs. A report issued by the NIH in 2011 included the following key points about co-occurring disorders:

  • Substance abuse increases the risk of depression and can initiate its symptoms
  • Individuals suffering from depression may abuse drugs to self-medicate their symptoms
  • Addiction and depression may share overlapping genetic and neurobiological vulnerabilities

People with both depressive symptoms and addictive behavior need to see a doctor as soon as possible. Co-occurring disorders involve significantly higher risks, stronger side effects and mutually reinforcing negative effects. Doctors may personally screen for depression, or they refer patients to mental health professionals. In either case, a depression diagnosis may be treated with the following therapies:

  • Antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • Behavioral therapies that treat negative thought processes and irrational beliefs
  • Interpersonal therapies that help patients work through depression-related issues
  • Psychodynamic therapies to search out and address unconscious conflicts
  • Brain stimulation therapies for severe cases that do not respond to medication

Many of these therapies can also address substance abuse. For people with co-occurring addiction and depression, other rehab services may include medically supervised detox, relapse-prevention strategies and tools for neutralizing depression and drug cravings.

If you are on the fence about seeing a doctor or want more information about treatment, then call our toll-free helpline to speak with one of our admissions coordinators. Our staff is available 24 hours a day to answer your questions, make recommendations, discuss treatment options and even to check health insurance plans for treatment coverage. If you need help addressing depression, then please call now.