Depression red flags: when to see your doctor

Mental Health


Depression is a serious illness that requires medical attention. Unfortunately many people who are living with a depressive illness do not seek treatment. Depression can be successfully managed with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. The earlier a person with a depressive illness begins treatment, the more successful it is and the greater the chance that recurrence can be prevented.

The first step to getting appropriate treatment is to see your doctor at the first signs of depressive symptoms. Certain medications and medical conditions such as thyroid disorder can cause the same symptoms as depression. A doctor can rule out these possibilities by conducting a physical exam, an interview, and lab tests.

The following is a list of signs and symptoms that may indicate a person has a depressive illness. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, make an appointment with a physician as soon as possible. If you or a loved one is struggling with feelings of self-harm or suicide, seek medical attention immediately.

Signs that you should see your doctor:

  • If you are feeling sad and hopeless nearly every day, for most of the day.
  • If you have experienced a loss of interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy (i.e. hobbies, sex, going out with friends etc).
  • If you are feeling guilty, helpless, or worthless.
  • If you have thoughts about death, self-harm or suicide, or have attempted suicide.
  • If you have experienced changes in sleep patterns (i.e., sleeping too much or too little, early morning awakening, or difficulty falling asleep).
  • If you have experienced unintended weight loss or weight gain, appetite loss, or overeating.
  • If you are feeling tired nearly every day, for most of the day, and lack energy for daily activities.
  • If you are suffering from frequent crying spells.
  • If you are having difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions.
  • If you are having persistent aches or pains, headaches, or digestive problems that do not get better with treatment.
  • If you are feeling restless, irritated, or easily annoyed on a regular basis.

Depression is not a part of normal life and is not something a person will just "snap out of." Depression interferes with daily activities and normal functioning. It causes significant pain for the person with the disorder and for their family and friends. If you or a person you know is experiencing the above symptoms on most days, over a 2-week period or longer, it is important to seek medical attention from a physician.

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