If you haven't been feeling like yourself and think you might be depressed, start by scheduling an appointment with a primary care physician.
Many people feel embarrassed to ask for help with depression symptoms, but you don't have to be ashamed. Depression is a very common condition, and your doctor is already quite familiar with it. It will not seem strange or shameful in any way to your doctor that you are feeling depressed.
How to Discuss Your Depression With a Doctor
- Share your symptoms.
- Avoid minimizing feelings.
- Be open about medications you're taking.
- Ask for a referral.
Some insurance plans require that you see a primary physician first in order to obtain a referral to a more specialized mental health care provider, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. So, having that initial conversation is important.
This article provides helpful tips that will help you begin a conversation about your depression or anxiety with a doctor. It also covers diagnostic tests a doctor may perform as well as common depression treatments.
Depression Discussion Guide
Get our printable guide to help you ask the right questions at your next doctor's appointment.
What Kind of Doctor Should You See for Your Depression?
How to Talk to Your Doctor About Depression
Remember, getting started is usually the hardest part. Once you get the conversation going, it may easier to open up about your depression symptoms in more detail.
Practice Your Opening Line
Some doctors are intuitive and may detect that you're not feeling like yourself without you needing to say anything. However, most of the time, you'll have to bring up your emotional state on your own. While some doctors will inquire about your mental state, others will not.
Try reciting out loud what you're going to say to a doctor beforehand. This can help calm your nerves and prevent the "blanking out" that sometimes happens when the time comes to speak up.
How to Start the Conversation
Tell your doctor that you haven't been feeling like yourself and you believe that you might be depressed. This will open the door for your doctor to get you the help that you need.
The following are some examples of what you might say:
- "I've been feeling extremely low, and I think I may be depressed."
- "May I be referred to a mental health professional to discuss my depression?"
- "I've been researching depression and I feel I have many of the symptoms."
Research Depression Symptoms
It's not necessary to perform research prior to a doctor's appointment. However, doing a quick online search of common depression symptoms may help you put into words what you've been experiencing, making it easier to speak to a doctor about your experience.
You may share something like:
- "I haven't been enjoying the things I usually do."
- "I lack the motivation to see friends or leave my house."
- "I feel completely worthless and the feeling won't go away."
- "I've been having thoughts of suicide and they're scaring me."
Keep a Journal
Try keeping a journal or taking notes in your phone on what your symptoms are, when you experience them, how long they last, what seems to help relieve them (if anything), and any other life stressors or triggers you feel are contributing to your depression symptoms.
Feel free to bring your symptoms journal to a doctor's appointment. The most important thing is being able to communicate what's going on to the doctor, and consulting your notes can help you do just that.
Avoid Minimizing Your Feelings
It is important to be up-front about your symptoms. Don't dismiss or minimize what you've been experiencing. Even mild symptoms of depression can disrupt your life, and can often grow worse over time if left untreated.
You might say something such as:
- "I've been feeling hopeless for the last few weeks."
- "I'm not able to enjoy the things I used to do."
- "I feel fatigued and sad almost all of the time."
- "My symptoms are making it difficult to function normally in my life."
Ask for a Referral
If you feel like you need to see a therapist or psychiatrist for additional treatments, ask your doctor for a referral. While your primary care physician can prescribe medications such as antidepressants, you will need to see a therapist for additional treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.
To ask for a referral, you might say:
- "I feel like it would be helpful to see a specialist. Can you refer me to someone?"
- "Who would you recommend that I see for therapy?"
- "I feel like I'm ready to talk to a therapist about additional treatment options. Who would you recommend?"
The treatment that will work best for you depends in part on your specific diagnosis. Your doctor will consider this information when referring you to a mental health professional for further evaluation and treatment.
Find ways to manage stress and reassure yourself in the time leading up to your appointment. Relaxation techniques you might practice include mindfulness, deep breathing, and meditation.
Some people don't communicate because they're concerned with being a "good patient" or they're embarrassed. Be honest with your doctor so that you get the care that you need.
In addition, you don't need to worry about your friends, family, or employer finding out about your depression. The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Privacy Rule prevents your physician from disclosing your private medical information without your permission.
If Necessary, Ask Another Doctor
If your doctor doesn't display empathy, does not seem to listen, and does not ask questions, you should consider seeing another doctor. People are more likely to share how they feel when their doctor shows concern and genuine empathy.
You might talk to a different doctor or even another type of medical or mental health professional such as a social worker, a counselor in a mental health center, or an ER doctor if it is an emergency.
Trust yourself; you know yourself best. If your doctor dismisses your concerns, keep advocating for yourself to ensure that you get the care that you need.
Treatment for depression takes time, so it is important to have realistic expectations. If your doctor prescribes antidepressants, it can take several weeks before you start to notice a difference in how you feel.
Therapy also takes time and you may require several sessions before you start to feel like you are developing new coping skills to manage your symptoms. Just remember that baby steps are still progress in the right direction.
Watch Now: 7 Most Common Types of Depression
What to Expect
Before you talk to your doctor about your depression or anxiety, it can be helpful to know what to expect from the diagnostic process. Your doctor may use a number of different sources of information to learn more about your symptoms and evaluate your condition.
Unfortunately, there isn't currently a definitive lab test that can be used to diagnose depression so your doctor will do a few things.
A doctor may also help you rule out other medical conditions—such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, hormonal changes, and thyroid conditionsthat may cause symptoms similar to depression.
It's also possible that your depressed feelings could be the result of medication side effects or some other cause. Be honest with a doctor about any medications you are taking.
First, your doctor will perform a physical exam and run several different blood tests to rule out other conditions that might be causing your symptoms. Some of the possible tests might include:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Thyroid function check
- Creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
- Liver function check
- Fasting blood glucose
- Calcium and magnesium level
Assessment of Risk Factors
Next, your doctor may ask you some questions to determine whether you have any possible risk factors for depression. Some of the known risk factors for depression include:
- Being female
- Being under stress
- Undergoing adverse events during childhood
- Having certain personality traits
- Having a family history of depression
- Not having many friends or personal relationships
- Having recently given birth
- Having a history of depression
- Having a serious illness
- Taking certain prescription medications
- Drug or alcohol use
Questions About Your Symptoms
In addition, your doctor may ask you about what symptoms you are experiencing. Among the symptoms they might ask you about are:
- Feelings of sadness or depression
- Not enjoying things like you used to
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Insomnia or sleeping more than usual
- Feeling restless
- Feeling extremely tired
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling worthless
- Feeling helpless
- Feeling guilty
- Having problems thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
- Thinking frequently about death or suicide
If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Your doctor will supplement all of the information that you provide with their own observations of your behavior. People with depression often exhibit the following signs:
- Appearing preoccupied
- Avoiding eye contact
- Not remembering things or appearing to have trouble concentrating
- Pacing, wringing their hands, or pulling at their hair
- Appearing agitated
- Speaking slowly with long pauses
- Moving slowly
- Being self-deprecating
- Crying or appearing sad
The Warning Signs of Depression
If your doctor has ruled out other possible causes for how you are feeling and feels that your symptoms and history are indicative of depression, they will either opt to treat you using antidepressant medications or they may instead refer you to a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or psychotherapist (or both).
Psychiatrists have specialized training and expertise in using medications to treat depression and mental illness while psychotherapists specialize in using talk therapy to help you with your depression.
A combination of therapy and medication is often the best way to treat depression.
There are a number of different types of psychotherapy that can be effective in the treatment of depression.
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT): This type of therapy is usually a short-term approach (often between 5 and 15 sessions) that focuses on identifying negative thought patterns, replacing them with more helpful ones, and learning new coping strategies.
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT): Like CBT, this short-term therapy option focuses on identifying problems in relationships and then improving how people relate and communicate with others.
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): This type of therapy is based on CBT and incorporates aspects of mindfulness practices. It can help people learn to tolerate distress, improve relationships, and manage stressful situations.
Your doctor or psychiatrist may also prescribe some type of medication to treat your depression. Some of the different types of antidepressants that your doctor or psychiatrist may prescribe include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These medications include Prozac (fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline), which act to increase the amount of serotonin in the brain.
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): These medications include Effexor (venlafaxine) and Cymbalta (duloxetine), which increase the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): These medications include Norpramin (desipramine) and Elavil (amitriptyline) and may be helpful when other types of antidepressants have not been effective.
- Wellbutrin (bupropion): This medication boosts the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treatmajor depressive disorder(MDD) andseasonal affective disorder(SAD).
Antidepressants usually begin to work within two to four weeks, although it may take as long as 12 weeks for them to reach full effectiveness.
Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Complementary medicine may also have beneficial effects on well-being when used in conjunction with psychotherapy and medication. Acupuncture, meditation, light therapy, and herbal supplements are some alternative options that you might consider.
You should always talk to your doctor before you try any type of alternative treatment. In the case of some herbal supplements, for example, you and your doctor need to consider possible drug interactions if you are currently taking or plan on taking antidepressants.
The 5 Types of Antidepressants
Self-care is an important part of coping with depression. There are a number of things that you can do that will complement your treatment plan.Here is an overview of what you can while getting treatment for depression.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Research has found that there is a complex relationship between sleep and depression. Sleep disturbances are common symptoms of depression, and studies suggest that there may be a reciprocal relationship between them.
Poor sleep increases the risk of depression, and depression then leads to an increased risk of reduced sleep quality.
Research suggests that regular physical activity can be effective in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. In more moderate to severe cases, exercise can be a beneficial complement to medication and therapy.
Eat a Healthy Diet
While researchers are still working to understand the link between diet and depression, there is little doubt that eating well can improve health and well-being. One 2017 study found symptoms of depression decreased when people had nutritional counseling and following a healthier diet for 12 weeks.
There is no specific diet to relieve depression symptoms. However, focusing on a varied diet that includes whole fresh foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables is a good place to start.
Chronic stress isn't healthy for anyone, but it's especially harmful if you or someone you love is living with depression. Stress can make it that much harder to maintain healthy habits and positive coping strategies needed to manage your depression symptoms.
Depression can also make it more difficult to control stress. For this reason, it's important to include proven stress management techniques like meditation, guided imagery, and deep breathing in your overall self-care plan.
A Word From Verywell
While it might feel difficult at first to talk to your doctor about your feelings of depression, having this discussion is an important first step toward improving your well-being. Tell your doctor that you have been feeling down and that you suspect you might be depressed.
Your doctor can then rule out or treat any underlying medical conditions that might be contributing to your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatments. Starting this conversation can help you get the help and support that you need to start feeling better.
8 Tips for Living With Depression
What do you say to your doctor about depression? ›
It's important to tell your doctor all of your symptoms. But before you get into that, tell him or her what you think may be wrong. Use clear statements such as “I think I may be depressed” or “I am having trouble with anxiety.” This will help guide them and let them know what direction to go in.How do doctors know ur depressed? ›
To be diagnosed with depression, an individual must have five depression symptoms every day, nearly all day, for at least 2 weeks. One of the symptoms must be a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities. Children and adolescents may be irritable rather than sad.How do I tell my doctor I want antidepressants? ›
Here are some guidelines to help you to have this conversation: If requesting medication, be direct and specific. Let your doctor know that you are concerned about your mental health and why. Something like, “I think I may be experiencing depression.How do I tell my doctor about mental health? ›
Talk openly with your doctor about what concerns you have and whether there are any other options for you. It is important that you feel comfortable with your treatment. If you're already on medication and don't want to take it anymore, it's important to speak to your doctor before you decide to stop.Can doctors tell if someone is depressed? ›
There's no lab test to diagnose depression, but physical exams and blood tests can help your doctor better understand what's causing your symptoms. Your doctor will likely want to do several tests to rules out other causes of depressive feelings, such as: Hormonal changes. Medication side effects.Can my doctor tell me if I have depression? ›
Depression Screening Tests
The inventories and questionnaires the doctor may use are just one part of the medical process of diagnosing depression. These tests, however, can sometimes give your doctor better insight into your mood. They can use them to make a diagnosis with more certainty.
Psychiatrists: A psychiatrist is a fully qualified medical doctor who specializes in mental health. They can diagnose and treat mental health conditions and prescribe medication. Some psychiatrists further specialize in specific areas of mental health such as addiction, eating disorders, and depression.What do they give for depression? ›
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI)
- Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI)
- Tricyclic and Tetracyclic Antidepressants.
- Atypical Antidepressants.
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
- N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) Antagonist.
The best approach is to be direct, explain your anxiety symptoms, what triggers your anxiety disorder and why you think medication may help reduce symptoms. Remember the doctor is there to help you. Don't waste time being vague about what you're seeking help for.When will a doctor put you on antidepressants? ›
Antidepressants are medicines that treat the symptoms of depression. There are many different types of antidepressant. They have to be prescribed by a doctor, usually for depression that's moderate or severe.
Can I just ask my doctor for antidepressants? ›
Yes, primary care providers (also called general practitioners) can prescribe antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. Can primary care doctors prescribe antidepressants? Yes, primary care providers can prescribe antidepressants.How do I ask for a mental health diagnosis? ›
- Take a Mental Health Screening Quiz. ...
- Schedule an Appointment with Your Primary Care Physician (PCP) ...
- Seek an Assessment Center for Help.
- Share symptoms. ...
- Provide your health history. ...
- Talk about your lifestyle. ...
- Let your doctor know what you're taking. ...
- Ask questions. ...
- Ask your doctor for advice. ...
- Tell your doctor when you need more time to talk about something. ...
- Take notes, or bring along a family member or close friend.
Family doctors can diagnose mental illnesses, prescribe medication and refer you to specialized services. Nurse practitioners (NPs) can do much of what family doctors can do and often work alongside one in a family practice. Psychiatrists are also medical doctors who specialize in mental health.Do I need to disclose my depression? ›
You aren't obligated to disclose your struggles with depression in an interview. In fact, I would recommend against it. Instead, focus on the job, why you are a good fit for the position and your value to the organization.How do you get prescribed antidepressants? ›
Many antidepressants can be prescribed by your doctor. But some can only be prescribed if you are supervised by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist. These information pages usually refer to 'your doctor' prescribing this medication. They are the most likely person to prescribe you these drugs.How do doctors diagnose anxiety? ›
To diagnose an anxiety disorder, a doctor performs a physical exam, asks about your symptoms, and recommends a blood test, which helps the doctor determine if another condition, such as hypothyroidism, may be causing your symptoms. The doctor may also ask about any medications you are taking.How do doctors treat people with depression? ›
Medications and psychotherapy are effective for most people with depression. Your primary care doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medications to relieve symptoms. However, many people with depression also benefit from seeing a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional.How do doctors help people with depression? ›
If your doctor diagnoses you with depression, you may then be referred to a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist. 3 The psychiatrist will further evaluate your mood and determine whether or not medication is needed. Some people will do fine being treated by their primary care physician.What type of person is more likely to suffer from depression? ›
People high in neuroticism (very emotionally sensitive) and introverts are two personality types more likely to experience negative thoughts research finds. In addition, being introverted is linked to spontaneously remembering more negative life events.
What is the number 1 prescribed antidepressant? ›
|Rank||Drug name||2021 prescriptions|
SSRIs are the most widely prescribed type of antidepressants. They're usually preferred over other antidepressants, as they cause fewer side effects. An overdose is also less likely to be serious. Fluoxetine is probably the best known SSRI (sold under the brand name Prozac).What pill should I take for depression? ›
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
SSRIs are among the most commonly prescribed medications. Some examples of SSRIs include sertraline (Zoloft®), paroxetine (Paxil®), fluoxetine (Prozac®) and citalopram (Celexa®).
- Make a list of your symptoms and when they began. ...
- Write down any major stresses in your life, as well as any traumas you've experienced, both past and present.
- Write down all of your health conditions: mental and physical.
- Make a list of all medications and supplements you're taking.
Avoid caffeine, tobacco and alcohol. Drink plenty of fluids. Take your antidepressant at bedtime if your doctor approves.What happens the first time you take an antidepressant? ›
The people we spoke to initially experienced insomnia, feeling lethargic and sleepy, dizziness, headaches, vivid dreams, dry mouth or bad taste in the mouth, sickness or nausea, hallucinations, loss of appetite, sweating, memory problems.Is it illegal to drive while on antidepressants? ›
In California, it is a crime to drive a vehicle while under the influence of any drug. (Vehicle Code Section 23152(f).) This includes legally prescribed prescription drugs. It is not a defense that the drugs were prescribed by a licensed physician for a medical condition.What do antidepressants feel like? ›
Common side effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) can include: feeling agitated, shaky or anxious. feeling and being sick. indigestion and stomach aches.What are the 5 signs of mental illness? ›
- Feeling sad or down.
- Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate.
- Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt.
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows.
- Withdrawal from friends and activities.
- Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping.
To get a real mental evaluation, you must speak with a professional mental health specialist or a psychiatrist. Your GP will help you diagnose certain other conditions such as alcohol dependence, thyroid disease, learning disabilities, and more.
What are the 7 main mental disorders? ›
- Anxiety Disorders.
- Mood Disorders.
- Psychotic Disorders.
- Eating Disorders.
- Personality Disorders.
You've been referred as a red flag because your GP or dentist feels your symptoms need further investigation as soon as possible and has referred you to a specialist. There are many common conditions that these symptoms could be linked to, including the possibility of cancer.What happens if I tell my doctor I have anxiety? ›
Your doctor can prescribe medication to help with anxiety symptoms. In addition, they may also recommend self-treatment methods you can practice at home, which include following a healthy diet, consistently exercising, and getting regular sleep.What not to do before a doctors appointment? ›
- 1) Get a good night's sleep. Try to get eight hours the night before your exam so your blood pressure is as low as possible.
- 2) Avoid salty or fatty foods. ...
- 3) Avoid exercise. ...
- 4) Don't drink coffee or any caffeinated products. ...
- 5) Fast. ...
- 6) Drink water. ...
- 7) Know your meds.
Having a diagnosis can give access to various support groups, treatment programmes, and medications that might not have been available previously. Being labelled with a mental health diagnosis might impact how others interact with you.How do you prove mental disability? ›
To prove your mental disability, you will need to have medical documentations, records and notes from any physicians you are seeing to show that your mental disability makes it impossible for you to work full time. The more medical evidence you have, the easier it is to prove your mental disability.What do I say to my doctor to get mental leave? ›
- Be open about your symptoms.
- Be upfront about your feelings. Don't leave out any details.
- Listen to your doctor's advice.
- If needed, book follow-up appointments.
- Explain your situation clearly and what you feel triggers your predicament.
Give the person specific examples of how her or his behavior has changed and explain why you think this indicates depression. Help him or her get the name of a reputable psychologist. Dial or watch the person dial to get the appointment. Offer to drive the person to the appointment.How do I ask for medical leave for depression? ›
You should start by telling your employer that you need to take FMLA leave. If your company has a procedure for requesting FMLA leave, try to follow it. In general, employees must provide a minimum of 30 days' notice of their need to take leave.What happens if I can't work due to mental illness? ›
If you are unable to work due to a mental illness, you should consider applying for Social Security Disability Benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at your case individually to determine if your condition is severe enough to qualify for benefits.