Which Doctor Can You See for Depression?

Which Doctor Can You See for Depression?

This blog post will address the question, “Which doctor can you see for depression?” It will help us understand the roles and responsibilities of various healthcare providers, particularly mental health professionals. We will also gain insights into when you should see a doctor for depression. 

Depression is a common condition that can be severely disabling in some individuals. Sometimes, a person with depression may have suicidal ideations or behaviors. If you have any such thoughts, please contact the emergency provider (911) or a suicide hotline immediately. 

Which Doctor Can You See for Depression?

For depression, you can see any of the following doctors:

  • Primary Care Provider
  • Clinical psychologist
  • Psychiatrist

Primary Care Provider

You must visit your primary care provider who will screen for depression. Depression may be a symptom of another physical concern (e.g., polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), thyroid, vitamin deficiency) or a specific medication’s side-effect. Your physician will attempt to eliminate any such possibilities. 

Suppose you do not have any condition or are on medication that could cause depression. In that case, the PCP will refer you to a mental health professional, such as a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist.

PCPs are excellent assets as they are eligible to prescribe drugs and recommend specific alterations you need to make regarding your lifestyle, and occasionally, even offer primary talk therapy. However, if your condition seems complicated and even mildly severe, they will recommend you to a mental health practitioner.  

If they do not suggest specific mental healthcare workers, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) to find practitioners in your region. For a few other countries and global websites, CheckPoint offers a list of resources.

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Clinical Psychologist

A clinical psychologist performs a thorough evaluation, including conducting detailed clinical interviews, gathering medical records and case histories, and administering standardized tests. They then provide psychotherapy to alleviate or manage the condition – in this case, depression. 

Different clinical psychologists use different approaches. Some use techniques that revolve around your current concerns, while some dwell more into your past experiences and how they affect you presently. 

Several forms of therapy are pertinent to the treatment of depression, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), to name a few. Some psychologists use an eclectic or integrative approach, wherein they combine various therapy forms to suit your needs. While looking for a psychotherapist, talk to them about the orientation they take. 

Ensure you look for a psychologist who is an expert in the problem with which you are dealing. For example, apart from depression, if you have substance use concerns, find a psychologist who has specialized in these fields.

Further, emotional rapport with your psychologist is exceptionally vital for making progress. If you do not feel comfortable with them, you can request to see a different psychologist.  

Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist is a mental health practitioner who prescribes medication and offers fundamental therapy. Some professionals recommend going to a psychiatrist before going to a psychologist. 

However, it does not make much of a difference. Assess what you prefer and act accordingly. Most mental health professionals work together. For instance, if you visit a psychologist who diagnoses you with severe depression, the psychologist will likely recommend you to consult a psychiatrist to target your concerns pharmacologically. The psychologist continues to provide psychotherapy. 

Likewise, if you visit a psychiatrist first, they may focus on the medical portion of your treatment while referring you to a psychologist or a counselor for therapy. Some psychiatrists offer psychotherapy as well. 

When You Should See a Healthcare Professional for Depression

It is challenging to discern depression as everyone faces each sign at some point in time. However, if you experience a minimum of four of the following symptoms every day for at least two weeks, you should consult your doctor. Moreover, if you feel any of them in severe intensity, visit a professional. 

Several signs indicate that you should see a healthcare professional for depression. These signs include:

  • Depressed mood or extended periods of extreme sadness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Feeling anxious
  • Inability to concentrate
  • A lack of interest
  • Unexplainable physical concerns
  • Agitation
  • Changes in eating habits
  • A lack of energy or fatigue
  • Suicidal thoughts

Depressed mood or extended periods of extreme sadness

Everybody feels sad now and then as that is a common and familiar feeling. However, if you experience prolonged periods of intense sadness and depressed mood, it could be a sign of depression, more so if such emotions affect your daily and occupational functioning.

Sleep disturbances

Some people with depression experience excessive sleeping as it is a means of escaping from the negative emotions and thoughts that entail depression. In some people, depression can lead to disturbed sleep or difficulties in falling and staying asleep (insomnia) due to their preoccupation with depressive thoughts. 

The worst part is that, apart from being a symptom of depression, such sleep disturbances worsen the condition. You get stuck in a vicious cycle of not getting optimal sleep and worsening your depression. Sleep issues also lead to dysregulation of the biological clock (circadian rhythm), which makes you tired and unable to cope with the condition.  

Feelings of worthlessness and excessive guilt

If you repeatedly have thoughts of worthlessness and feel like you are undeserving, you could be depressed. Such negativity is pervasive and can worsen your depression, leading you to even engage in self-harming behaviors. 

You may also experience excessive guilt when you have depression. Events such as losing a job or ending a relationship can cause such shame to worsen and take a toll on your self-esteem. 

Feeling anxious

Anxiety is commonly seen in people with depression. These feelings of anxiety and fear can be overwhelming and can even cause panic attacks. Anxiety is beyond trepidation that people typically sense; you always feel panicky and ruminate, manifesting physically like palpitations, sleep difficulties, and sweating. 

Anxiety can indicate depression and can manifest as a separate disorder. If you feel you may have anxiety apart from depression, consult your physician immediately. 

Inability to concentrate

Depression can make you lose focus, and you may even start forgetting crucial deadlines and other responsibilities. When you are continually thinking of depressive and pessimistic thoughts, your brain does not have time and capacity to register different things. Depression takes a toll on cognitive abilities, including memory, decision-making skills, and planning. 

These factors can affect your performance at home and work. You may even make decisions that you normally would not or engage in risky or impulsive behaviors. 

A lack of interest and social withdrawal

Activities and things that used to interest you no longer do, and there is barely much that you look forward to when you are depressed. If such is the case with you, consult your doctor; you could be depressed. 

Depression brings on a sense of apathy or indifference, and you may start withdrawing yourself socially. It deprives you of taking pleasure in activities to the point where you stop engaging in them. 

Unexplainable physical concerns

Depression can manifest as inexplicable physical concerns, such as headaches, neck pain, back pain, digestive issues, nausea, vomiting, and so on. With that said, not every physical problem is a depressive symptom. You may be suffering from a medical condition that is causing such concerns. Either way, it is crucial to get it checked by a professional. 

Agitation

Even minor inconveniences start irritating you. You always feel grumpy and agitated, and things that do not usually get to you start inconveniencing you, making you lash out at people around you. 

Just how people with physical concerns get irritable often, the same happens to people in psychological distress. You feel on edge, and your frustration threshold experiences a drop.

Changes in eating habits

Most people with depression experience changes in eating habits, wherein they either eat too little or too much. Such alterations also lead to weight loss or gain, depending on the specific direction of change. 

Depression can make you neglect or minimize interest in orchestrating meals and consuming them, making you lose weight. On the other hand, it can make you displace your depressive thoughts and feelings onto food, making you binge and gain weight. 

Fatigue or a lack of energy 

Sleep difficulties and unhealthy eating patterns can cause fatigue. Besides these, obsessive negative thoughts and feelings of emptiness and hopelessness can also lead to a lack of energy. Physical concerns can also zap the vitality out of you. When you are fatigued, you may find it challenging to engage in necessary activities. 

Fundamental tasks like showering can seem arduous. When you experience a lack of energy to the point of daily functioning becoming impaired, you need to seek help.

Suicidal thoughts

If you have thoughts of engaging in self-harm or killing yourself, you need to immediately contact your physician or reach out to the national hotline. Several resources provide a comprehensive list of crisis hotlines in your region, including SucideStop and WhatsApp

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Conclusion

This article helped us to explore the question, “Which doctor can you see for depression?” It enabled us to understand the roles and responsibilities of various healthcare providers, particularly mental health professionals. We also understood when you should see a doctor for depression. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Which Doctor Can You See for Depression?

Which doctor do you consult for psychological concerns?

You consult mental health professionals like psychologists, counselors, and psychiatrists for psychological concerns. Psychiatrists diagnose, prescribe medication, and provide therapy, while psychologists and counselors offer psychotherapy and cannot prescribe medication.

Who can prescribe medication for mental health conditions?  

Primary care providers (PCPs) and psychiatrists can prescribe medication for mental health conditions. PCPs only help with the management of minor concerns. If your problem is complicated or severe, they will refer you to a psychiatrist or other mental health providers.

What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

A psychologist cannot prescribe medication but provides psychotherapy (talk therapy) for patients with mental health concerns. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication and take on a pharmacological approach to treating psychological conditions. Although psychiatrists can provide psychotherapy, they are not intensely equipped or trained as psychologists to take a psychotherapeutic approach.  

Can my physician prescribe anti-anxiety medication?

Yes, your physician can prescribe anti-anxiety drugs. With that said, you need to consult them in person for those drugs that are categorized under controlled substances (e.g., benzodiazepines like Xanax). Controlled substances are drugs that may be addictive and are regulated by strict policies for a prescription.  

References

Schimelpfening, N. (2020). What Kind of Doctor Should You See for Your Depression?. Verywellmind. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/i-think-im-depressed-now-what-1066902.  

Crain, E. (2014). 10 Signs You Should See a Doctor for Depression. Verrywellmind. Retrieved from https://www.health.com/condition/depression/10-signs-you-should-see-a-doctor-for-depression

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Ananya Ramesh is a mental health professional with a master's degree in clinical psychology. She has unconditional passion and sincerity toward working with psychologically distressed populations, specifically young adults and middle-aged people. Apart from this, she takes an abundant interest in producing and refining content related to mental health, psychology, and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Outside of work, she enjoys reading and sketches portraits.