Talk with Your Doctor about Depression

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

If you think you might be depressed, talk with a doctor about how you are feeling.

What is depression?
Depression is an illness that involves the brain. It can affect your thoughts, mood, and daily activities. Depression is more than feeling sad for a few days.

Depression can be mild or severe. Mild depression can become more serious if it’s not treated.

If you are diagnosed with depression, you aren’t alone. Depression is a common illness that affects millions of adults in the United States every year.

The good news is that depression can be treated. Getting help is the best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones. You can feel better.

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The Basics: Signs of Depression

What are the signs of depression?
It’s normal to feel sad sometimes, but if you feel sad or “down” on most days for more than 2 weeks at a time, you may be depressed.

Depression affects people differently. Some signs of depression are:

  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Feeling hopeless or empty
  • Forgetting things or having trouble making decisions
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Gaining or losing weight without meaning to
  • Thinking about suicide or death

To learn more, take this quiz to see if you might be depressed.

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The Basics: Treatment

How is depression treated?
Depression can be treated with talk therapy, medicines (called antidepressants), or both. Your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional for talk therapy or medicine.

Check out these websites to learn more about depression:

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Take Action!

Take Action: See a Doctor

Depression is a real illness. If you think you might be depressed, see your doctor.

Talk to a doctor about how you are feeling.
Get a medical checkup. Ask to see a doctor or nurse who can screen you for depression.

The doctor or nurse may also check to see if you have another health condition (like thyroid disease) that can cause depression or make it worse. If you have one of these health conditions, it’s important to get treatment right away.

What about cost?
Under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover screening for depression. This means you may be able to get screened at no cost to you.

If you don’t have insurance, you can still get health care. Find a health center near you and make an appointment.

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Take Action: Get Treatment

Get treatment for depression.
When you have depression, seeking help is the best thing you can do. Depression can be treated with talk therapy, medicines, or both.

Ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health professional or use this treatment locator to find mental health services near you. Some programs offer free or low-cost treatment if you don't have insurance. 

Here are some places you can go to for help with depression:

  • Doctor’s office or health clinic
  • Family service or social service agency
  • Psychologist (“sy-KAH-lah-jist”)
  • Counselor or social worker
  • Psychotherapist (“sy-koh-THAYR-uh-pist”)

Remember, even if asking for help seems scary, it's an important step toward feeling better. 

Check out this guide to finding a mental health professional [PDF - 2.84 MB].

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Take Action: Support for Depression

Get support.
If you have depression, it can also help to reach out for social support. You don't have to face depression alone. A trusted family member, friend, or faith leader can help support you as you seek out medical treatment. 

Get more ideas for building your support system.

Get active.
Getting active can lower your stress level and help your treatment work better. It can also help keep you from getting depressed again. But it's important to know that physical activity isn't a treatment for depression. 

If someone you care about is depressed, get help.
If you think a friend or family member may be depressed, check out these tips on how to talk to a loved one about depression.

Find more resources for people living with a mental health condition.

Get help right away if you or someone you know is thinking about suicide.

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