It’s a big step admitting you may be depressed. Nobody seeks out a mental illness and neither do they want the stigma or the stereotypes that could follow them around. Even so, enough people recognize that depression is very common and in order for things to improve professional help may be needed. If you feel depressed what should you do and where should you turn?
Perhaps you’ve already done some research around the signs and symptoms of depression and it has brought you to this point. You’ve maybe been wondering whether it is worth troubling your doctor? After all, things have been dragging on for a while, and things might improve? Perhaps all you need is a break? Although, all those aches and pains, the stomach upsets and the broken sleep doesn’t help matters. So you’ve been putting off the appointment, trying to distract yourself, and maybe self-medicating?
Let’s put things into perspective. First, symptoms of depression are important. Whether or not you can identify a specific reason for feeling depressed is beside the point. There is a difference between a low mood that may last just a few hours or days and depression that can last for weeks, months or even years.
Depression may be a disease in its own right or it may be the symptoms of some other physical problem and that’s why it’s important to see your doctor. Your doctor will want to run blood tests. They will want to talk about events leading up to your mood, and your current situation, your work, or anything that may have a bearing on your situation. Then, once physical conditions have been excluded, your doctor may agree to treat you for depression.
But I’ve already made a few jumps. Perhaps your biggest hurdle is going to see the doctor? It’s something many people find difficult especially if they feel otherwise healthy. It’s also highly symbolic. I’ve spoken to many patients who in different ways say broadly similar things. For example - once you open your mouth about the way you feel, you’ve crossed a line. You’ve moved beyond a state of self-containment. Now you’re exposed. You’ve become a medical statistic, a diagnosis and a person who is asking a total stranger for help. Your self-confidence, low as it has become, now scrapes along the bottom. Far from feeling better, you leave the consultation feeling depleted, despite reassurances that things will improve.
Well, that’s one possible scenario, but we’re all different and the way we use the opportunity to speak to a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist, can have big implications. All health professionals agree that the best way for them to offer help and advice is to be told accurate information about how the patient is feeling. Patients may share the sentiment, but things may be quite different in practice. Here are just a couple of well-known examples:
A new patient spends most of their time making small talk and perhaps touching vaguely on one or two symptoms. The doctor, uncertain about what they are meant to be picking up, may take blood pressure and ask a few standard questions in order to focus the situation. It can be like getting blood out of a stone and eventually time runs out. Others turn up for some apparently minor complaint and just as they are making to leave come out with an apparent afterthought: “Oh yes, while I’m here I thought I’d just mention.” Yet others don’t turn up for appointments because the whole thing is just too intimidating, or they feel insecure, or unconvinced and embarrassed by their own emotions.