Talking about depression is never easy, but it is perhaps the single most important step in getting better. Because of the stigma surrounding mental health, many people are reluctant to bring up their symptoms of depression with a family medicine doctor, and 80% of depressed persons will never seek out professional help at all. But your family practice physicians are perhaps the best resource you have when it comes to mental health issues, particularly if you’ve built up a relationship with them over time.
If you’re struggling with untreated depression, here are three pieces of advice for broaching the subject at your next visit.
- Be upfront.
Don’t make vague suggestions about the changes you’ve felt in your mood; your doctor may end up looking for physical symptoms that aren’t there. Instead, say directly, “I’ve been feeling depressed lately,” or, “I’ve been experiencing certain symptoms that I think might be depression.” This will help direct the conversation toward a more productive route.
- Be honest.
A family medicine doctor can be an excellent starting place to talk about depression because mental health issues often manifest themselves physically, too. Insomnia, weight loss or weight gain, substance abuse, and even hypertension or diabetes may be linked in some way with depression. When you’re honest with your doctor about all of your symptoms, he or she will be better equipped to tackle the underlying health issues.
- Be proactive.
It may be helpful to come in to your appointment with a list of questions, including where you should turn for further help. Your family doctor may be able to refer you to a psychiatrist or other specialist to better treat depression where they cannot. Keep the lines of communication open between your healthcare providers and schedule follow-up meetings before you leave.
Combating depression is often much easier when you have a supportive network to listen to your needs and help you out. Talk to your family medicine doctor about your symptoms and learn how you can start taking the steps to turn your life back around. Though talking about depression may be a difficult conversation to start, it will be worthwhile one in the end.
You wouldn’t hesitate to mention physical health problems like migraines to a primary care physician; mental health problems like depression shouldn’t be any different.