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Depression is more than just feeling sad sometimes or having a bad day. It is a group of symptoms that linger for weeks or longer that interfere with your ability to manage your day-to-day activities. Depression can happen to anyone at any age. About 16 million American adults experience depression each year.
Some of the signs of depression include:
A depression screening, also called a depression test, helps find out if you have depression. Your primary care provider may give you a depression test if you are showing signs of depression.
Along with a physical exam, you may be asked about your mood, feelings and sleep habits and if you have any other signs of depression. You may have a physical exam to rule out health issues that may be causing depression, like anemia or thyroid disease.
Also keep in mind that depression is often missed in people who have other health problems. Be sure to talk to your doctor about it if you think you have symptoms.
The good news is depression can be treated. If you think you may be depressed, the first step is to talk to your doctor. Be sure to:
The most common ways to treat depression are with counseling, medicine or both. Your doctor may suggest you see a mental health professional who can help you find the treatment that works best for you.
Although most people with depression can get better with the right treatment, only about 35 percent of people with severe depression get help from a mental health professional, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
You can learn more about depression treatment from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Therapy or counseling with a licensed mental health professional can help people find ways to better cope with issues impacting their mental health. And just like with a physical illness, someone with a mental health issue may also need to take medicine to get better.
Therapy and medicine together, when recommended by your doctor, has been shown in some cases to be an effective way to manage the symptoms of some mental health disorders.
When medicine is part of a treatment plan, medicine compliance is very important. Medicine compliance is an agreement to take the prescribed dose, at the right time for the recommended length of time. It can be a shared decision between the person, their mental health provider and often a family member involved in their care.
Keeping to a medication plan can be hard to do. It is not unusual for some people to not take their medicine as directed. And some don’t take it at all. But failing to stick to the plan can hurt their quality of life or cause complications or a relapse. It can even lead to a hospital stay.
If you have a hard time taking your medicine, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They may have tips for keeping up with medication plans. Setting reminders on your phone or using pillboxes to help organize your medicine may help.
If you’re having thoughts of harming yourself or suicide, please get help right away. You can call or text 988 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline site at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If you’re struggling, call your primary care doctor. Don’t put it off. If you have depression, it's important to get treatment. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner you may start to feel better.
Originally published 9/2/2021; Revised 2022, 2023, 2024
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