At what point should I call the doctor about depression?

When it comes to mood disorders like depression, one of the many significant challenges is finding the line between healthy variations in moods and attitudes.

Signs of depression and when to talk to a doctor about it

Most people experience majority of the symptoms of depression at some point in their lives, to one degree or another, and it can be hard to tell which moods and feelings are symptoms of disorders which require treatment. For this reason, many people who do have depression or other mood disorders are diagnosed many years after noticing symptoms, or are never diagnosed or treated at all.

Watch out for these symptoms and signs of depression

There are a wide range of symptoms of depression, and some of them are physical, which can make it easier for some people to figure out how and when to reach out and ask for help. Both physical and emotional symptoms may be signs of depression if they last for two weeks or longer. Physical symptoms of depression include:

  • Changes in sleep, whether that’s sleeping more often than usual, or insomnia
  • A loss of appetite, or increased craving for food, causing either over- or under-eating
  • A loss of sex drive
  • Tiredness or lack of energy
  • Aches and pains or headaches with no obvious cause

The emotional effects of depression can vary widely, from a consistent level of negative feelings all the way to feeling suicidal or hopeless. Emotional symptoms of depression can include:

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness or feeling on the edge of tears
  • Anger, irritability, or frustration, especially anger or frustration that feels excessive to events
  • A loss of interest or pleasure in favorite things or interests
  • Slowed thoughts, speaking and movements
  • Agitation, twitchiness or restlessness
  • Feelings of guilt, inability to let go of past mistakes or blame
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Thoughts of suicide should be treated as a medical emergency and you should go to your local emergency room right away.

Depression can be caused and set off by different things at different times. Sometimes depression is triggered  more by life events and stressors. Other times, it’s more determined by brain chemistry, regardless of life and stressors. Often, it’s some combination of the two. In any case, when depression affects your life, reaching out to a healthcare provider  for treatment and support is one of the best ways to start to work towards recovery.

Talking to your provider

Depression is a serious condition, and not something that one snaps out of by force of will. The earlier treatment starts, the faster and more effectively one can begin to start feeling better.

Primary care providers tend to be the first line of defense against depression. Starting the conversation about your mental health with the healthcare provider you’re the most comfortable with is never a bad idea, but it’s also good to remember that most PCPs don’t specialize in mental health treatment, and mental health providers like psychiatrists can be fantastic resources as you start to figure out what your needs around treatment are.

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