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What Should I do if I'm Depressed?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Society may use the term “depressed” without understanding the fine distinctions between clinical depression and other conditions like grief, dysthymia, cyclothymia, and bipolar disorders. Professional help on whether these conditions or others exist comes in the form of care given by psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists and social workers. The depressed individual shouldn’t delay getting assistance, to determine if he has a condition that can respond to treatment and to avoid worsening of their illness.

Patients may benefit from understanding the guidelines clinicians use to diagnose major depression. According to the American Psychological Association, a major depressive episode is present if it lasts for at least two weeks, provided there is no good reason for great sadness like suffering a recent loss, and causes people to lose pleasure or interest in things, or creates a mood that is depressed. Patients also have to experience a majority of symptoms from the following list: disinterest in previously enjoyed and daily activities, slowdown or increase in movement, sense of fatigue most days, depressed or irritable mood, weight gain or loss, thoughts of death or suicidality, a sense of guilt or worthlessness, too little or too much sleep, and impaired thinking or concentration abilities. Additionally, symptoms have to impair people so much that their social or work lives are negatively affected.

There are fine distinctions that a trained clinician must make when diagnosing a depressed patient, including whether a patient has experienced episodes like this in the past. Depression can be a symptom of other illnesses and ruling out these illnesses is an important aspect of diagnosis. The layperson usually can’t determine himself if he fits the criteria for depression or another disorder, though there are online depression and bipolar tests that may point people in the right direction before they get help.

Interviews with a mental health professional include a series of questions that pinpoint and focus on these areas so that a correct diagnosis is made. It’s important to stress how vital it is to undergo this process with a clinician if a patient feels strongly depressed. If true depression or bipolar disorder exists, it may not improve without pharmacological treatment and ongoing therapy. It can also worsen and people become at increasing risk for things like suicide attempts; at best they continue to feel miserable and lose more function in many areas of daily living.

The depressed patient may wonder which clinician is best equipped to handle treatment of depression. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications, but they may or may not perform standard therapy. General practice doctors can also prescribe, but this isn’t always the best choice because psychopharmacological drugs are highly individualized in action and the extra training psychiatrists have in this area is of great benefit to the patient. It’s also fine to begin with therapists, social workers, or psychologists who can refer the patient out to a psychiatrist, if needed, and remain in the picture to offer therapy. Therapy along with medications is considered the gold standard for treatment.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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