What to do if you feel you are dealing with depression or you suspect that someone you love is currently dealing with depression.
- Check in with your doctor. There are several medical problems that share similar symptoms with depression or increase the risk of depression, such as stroke, cancer, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis and endocrine disorders. Health problems should be addressed first when looking into depression.
What to tell your doctor: Review the common symptoms of depression that include the physical symptoms and if any apply to you, tell your doctor. Make sure you have a current list of your medications that include over-the-counter medications. Inform your doctor if you have been using alcohol and/or other drugs. Report to your doctor all medical conditions you may have and any stressors that may have occurred within the last 12 months.
- Following a physical examination, your doctor may refer you for a mental health evaluation at your local mental health center. You do not need a referral from your doctor to receive a mental health evaluation and may also choose to do this on your own.
What to expect from a mental health evaluation: An individual seeking a mental health evaluation will usually meet with a licensed mental health provider who will review the individual's medical history, list of medications, and family history as well as their emotional functioning. You should come prepared for a mental health evaluation as you would for visiting with your doctor and have your medications and medical health problems ready for review. Following the mental health evaluation, diagnosis and recommendations will be given.
Recommendations may include a medication evaluation for the purpose of prescribing medication that is appropriate based on the individual's current health status and list of medications. Recommendations may also include testing of mood, personality, or memory to further clarify diagnosis. Individual or group psychotherapy may also be recommended. Studies have shown that a combination of psychotherapy and medication have been the most helpful in treating depression and preventing relapse. Group therapy has also been found to be helpful for those in various stages of grief and loss.
Studies suggest that six million people are affected by late life depression, however only 10% ever receive treatment. The older adult population is significantly underdiagnosed and undertreated when it comes to mental health concerns. This may be due to multiple factors such as difficulty with diagnosis and fear of stigmatization. However, studies show that the appropriate treatment of depression may greatly improve quality of life even during times of loss and physical health decline.
"Happiness is not having the best of everything, it is making the best of everything." Anonymous
Hinrichsen, G. A., & Clougherty, K. F. (2006). Interpersonal psychotherapy for depressed older adults. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
The National Council On The Aging & Pfizer. (1998). New views of depression for older adults: How to recognize depression, get help, and be well again. United States: Pfizer Inc.
Reprinted with permission of Health Matters magazine