Depression is a serious illness, but it can be successfully treated with the help of a health professional. If you think you are depressed. there are many places to get the help you need. You can:
- Call your family physician or other health care provider.
- Call your local health department, community mental health center, hospital, or clinic. They can help you or tell you where else you can go for help.
- Contact a local university medical center (many have special programs for the treatment of depression).
- Contact one of the national health groups listed below. They can refer you to a health professional where you live. They can also give you more information about depression, provide you with books and pamphlets, and tell you about support groups.
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
2101 Wilson Blvd, Suite 302 Arlington, VA 22201
Toll free: 800-950-6264
National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association (NDMDA)
730 N. Franklin St., Suite 501 Chicago, IL 60610
Toll free: 800-82-NDMDA
National Foundation for Depressive Illness, Inc. (NFDI)
P.O. Box 2257 New York, NY 10116-2257
Toll free: 800-248-4344
National Mental Health Association (NMHA)
National Mental Health Information
Center 1021 Prince Street Alexandria, VA 23314-297 1
Toll free: 800-969-6642
A Patient’s Guide
This information talks about major depressive disorder, which is only one form of depressive illness. If you are not sure that you have major depressive disorder, this may help to answer your questions and give you information.
There are two sections: Section 1 answers some of the common questions about depression and gives some basic information. Section 2 gives more detailed information about depression and its treatment. Use this information any way that will help you. You may want to: Print this information and take it with you when you Visit your health care provider. Your notes and records can help you get the best possible treatment for your depression. Share this information with a family member or close friend. It can help them to better understand your depression and its treatment.
This information is based on evaluation of research studies. Other treatments for depression that are available, while effective for some people, have not been carefully studied.
Here, the word “depression” is used to describe major depressive disorder.
Who gets depressed?
Major depressive disorder-often referred to as depression-is a common illness that can affect anyone. About 1 in 20 Americans (over 11 million people) get depressed every year. Depression affects twice as many women as men.
What is depression?
Depression is not just “feeling blue” or “down in the dumps.” It is more than being sad or feeling grief after a loss. Depression is a medical disorder (just like diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease are medical disorders) that day after day affects your thoughts, feelings, physical health, and behaviors.
Depression may be caused by many things, including:
Family history and genetics.
Other general medical illnesses.
Drugs or alcohol.
Other psychiatric conditions.
Certain life conditions (such as extreme stress or grief), may bring on a depression or prevent a full recovery. In some people, depression occurs even when life is going well.
Depression is not your fault. It is not a weakness. It is a medical illness. Depression is treatable.
How will I know if I am depressed?
People who have major depressive disorder have a number of symptoms nearly every day, all day, for at least 2 weeks. These always include at least one of the following:
Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy.
Feeling sad, blue, or down in the dumps.
You may also have at least three of the following symptoms:
Feeling slowed down or restless and unable to sit still.
Feeling worthless or guilty.
Increase or decrease in appetite or weight.
Thoughts of death or suicide.
Problems concentrating, thinking, remembering, or making decisions.
Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
Loss of energy or feeling tired all of the time.
With depression, there are often other physical or psychological symptoms, including:
Other aches and pains.
Feeling pessimistic or hopeless.
Being anxious or worried.
What should I do if I have these symptoms?
Too often people do not get help for their depression because they don’t recognize the symptoms, have trouble asking for help, blame themselves, or don’t know that treatments are available.
Family practitioners, clinics, or health maintenance organizations are often the first places that people go for help. These health care providers will:
Find out if there is a physical cause for your depression.
Treat the depression.
Refer you to a mental health specialist for further evaluation and treatment.
If you do not have a regular health care provider, contact your local health department, community mental health clinic, or hospital. University medical centers also provide treatment for depression.
How will treatment help me?
Treatment reduces the pain and suffering of depression. Successful treatment removes all of the symptoms of depression and returns you to your normal life. The earlier you get treatment for your depression, the sooner you will begin to feel better. As with other medical illnesses, the longer you have the depression before you seek treatment, the more difficult it can be to treat.
Most people who are treated for depression feel better and return to daily activities in several weeks. Because it takes several weeks for treatment to work fully, it is important to get treatment early before your depression gets worse.
As with any medical condition, you may have to try one or two treatments before finding the best one. It is important not to get discouraged if the first treatment does not work. In almost every case, there is a treatment for the depression that will work for you.
What type of treatment will I get? The major treatments for depression are:
Antidepressant medicine combined with psychotherapy.
In some cases of depression. other treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and light therapy, are also useful.
Thoughts of suicide or death are often a part of depression. If you have these thoughts, tell someone you trust now. Ask them to help you find professional help right away. Once your depression is properly treated, these thoughts will go away.
Who should see a mental health specialist?
Many people with depression can be successfully treated by their general health care provider. However, some people need specialized treatment because the first treatment does not work, because they need a combination of treatments, or because the depression is severe or it lasts a long time. Many times, a second opinion or consultation is all that is needed. If the mental health specialist provides treatment, it is most often on an outpatient basis (not in the hospital). If you think you need to see a mental health specialist, tell your health care provider, or contact one of the mental health organizations listed at the beginning of this document.
Section 2 will tell you more about depression, its diagnosis, and its treatment.
People Who Treat Depression
The following health care providers can treat depression:
General Health Care Provider
- Physician-A medical health care provider who has some training in treating mental or psychiatric disorders.
- Physician Assistant-An individual with medical training and some training in treating mental or psychiatric disorders.
- Nurse Practitioner-A registered nurse (R.N.) with additional nursing training and some training in treating mental or psychiatric disorders.
he health care providers listed above can refer you to one of the health care providers specializing in mental health listed below:
Mental Health Specialists
- Psychiatrist-A physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental or psychiatric disorders.
- Psychologist-A person with a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy. D.) in psychology and training in counseling, psychotherapy, and psychological testing.
- Social Worker-A person with a degree in social work. A social worker with a master’s degree often has specialized training in counseling.
- Psychiatric Nurse Specialist-A registered nurse (R.N.) usually with a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing who specializes in treating mental or psychiatric disorders.
Here, the term “health care provider” is used to describe any general health care provider or mental health specialist listed above.
When someone is depressed, that person has several symptoms nearly every day, all day, that last at least 2 weeks.
You can use the chart to check off any symptoms you have had for 2 weeks or more.