You’re feeling sad… worthless… angry…. Your family, your work, the things that used to be important to you have lost interest to you. You’re tired, you have difficulty sleeping, and you’re irritable. You’re having recurring thoughts of self-harm or suicide. You’ve felt this way for a month or more. These are typical symptoms of depression. They may be symptoms of other medical problems. You cannot diagnose yourself. If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, seek out professional medical assistance. Let a doctor use his knowledge to make a proper diagnosis of your condition so you can be treated properly for what ails you. Your doctor can treat you himself, or he can refer you to a specialist.
Assuming your doctor does diagnose you with depression (this term is used as a generic diagnosis because there are many types of depression, too numerous to list here), and sends you to a mental health professional, what can you expect to happen?
You will meet with the mental health professional and, together, you will establish a plan of treatment for your particular condition. Depending upon your diagnosis, your treatment may include talk therapy and depression medication.
Talk therapy is an important element of your treatment for depression. Otherwise known as psychotherapy, it can help you establish effective coping strategies for dealing with stressors that regularly arise in your life. Your therapist can assist you in coming up with new ways to cope with your problems and new ways to view problems with family, friends, co-workers, or life. You will learn how your own thoughts and preconceptions add to your depression; and how to keep a journal so you can have your own reference on how things you have tried have succeeded or require a more effective approach. You will also learn about your specific kind of depression and the triggers and stressors that could aggravate your depression. You will explore your own behavior patterns and motivations for those behaviors which could contribute to your depression.
In addition to psychotherapy, your therapist or physician may prescribe depression medication for you. There is no “magic bullet” medication for depression. Again, your physical should be consulted because, depending on your medical condition, some depression medications (“antidepressants”) could be dangerous for you to take. Your doctor can balance the potential benefits and risks of your medication and, with your input, decide what medication you should try. The process of settling on a medical course of treatment could take some time. For example, if one antidepressant doesn’t work for you, another one might be substituted. In some situations, a combination of antidepressants might be recommended. Many kinds of antidepressants are the subject of television commercials. You can take notes on them and bring the notes to your therapist or doctor. But you should rely on your medical professional to help you make an informed decision. Other medications might be added, again, depending on your particular form of depression and other issues.
The goal of treatment is to make you stronger. You can evaluate your treatment by keeping a journal and reviewing your moods. Develop and maintain good habits; seeing your therapist and taking your medications, as prescribed, are good habits. Do not discontinue taking your medications without doctor supervision.
Depression is a treatable illness. You should allow yourself to be treated.