How to Talk to Your Doctor About Depression

Spring is a great time to schedule your regular wellness visit with your doctor. New season, new you! Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re looking to get information or help with the feelings of depression you’re currently struggling with. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to talk about mental health. Here are some tips on how to start the conversation.

First, choose which physician to confide in. If you think you are suffering from depression, but the thought of seeing a mental health professional overwhelms you, start with someone you already see regularly. If your yearly wellness visit is coming up, you may be most comfortable in speaking with your primary care physician (PCP). Similarly, you may be more comfortable seeing your OB/GYN – especially for postpartum depression treatment – your cardiologist or endocrinologist. Other professionals who can help include counsellors, social workers, employee assistance plan professionals, registered nurses, occupational therapists, and vocational rehabilitation therapists. Regardless of which doctor you choose to discuss your concerns with, the sooner you seek help the better.

Second, prepare for the visit. You’ve read about the signs of depression, and you have a suspicion that you fit the bill. Think of goals you’d like to accomplish as an outcome of your visit. Diagnosis and treatment may take time, but opening up about your feelings and determining a treatment plan are logical first steps. Doctors can’t read your mind. Though they may have general screening questions, you should think of ways to bring it up and guide the discussion. Especially if there are other health concerns you need to address at the appointment.

State your concerns as plainly as you can and don’t minimize the issue. Here are ways to bring it up to your healthcare professional:

  • “I think I might be depressed.”
  • “I am experiencing the following symptoms…”

Lastly, manage your expectations. Your doctor is taking all your provided information and forming a diagnosis. But what may initially sound like depression, may be more than one mental health issue or a combination of mental and physical illnesses. A depression diagnosis is often difficult to make because clinical depression can manifest in many different ways. As a result, your doctor may schedule a follow-up appointment or may refer you to be seen by another mental health provider.

Remember to be patient and persistent. Finding a treatment may take time, and it’s up to you to see it through. Take ownership of follow-ups, advocate for yourself, and make sure your providers are communicating with each other.

Once your doctor diagnoses you with depression, they will work with you on a treatment plan. Advancements in depression treatment offer no shortage in treatment options. Yet many struggle to find a treatment that works. Antidepressants are the second most commonly-prescribed drug in the United States, but even still, an estimated 30% of people who try them can’t shake their symptoms.

If you have treatment-resistant depression, your doctor may recommend medication changes in addition to psychotherapy – or “talk therapy.” Your doctor may also order a cyctochrome P450 genotyping test that helps figure out your body’s reaction to certain kinds of antidepressants.

Perhaps a better alternative to treating depression is non-invasive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS uses magnetic pulses that stimulate nerve cells in small underactive regions of the brain that are thought to control mood in order to relieve symptoms of depression. Researchers find that those who have tried at least two antidepressants without success, see improvement in their symptoms after about 15 TMS sessions.

TMS Neuro Institute is one of the earliest adopters in using transcranial magnetic stimulation to treat depression in Los Angeles. If you and your doctor deem TMS as the next step in your treatment, schedule a consultation by calling 323.655.3747 or book an appointment online here.