How to Get Help for DepressionUntreated Depression Poses Serious Risks
-- By Nicole Nichols, Health Educator
Nearly everyone has experienced a time when it hardly seems worth the effort to get out of bed, or when the problems they face seem so overwhelming that they're not sure where to begin. These feelings and thoughts are helpful warning signs that something isn’t right.
Depression is a medical condition, not a personal weakness. People who suffer from depression should seek medical treatment, although many avoid it for various reasons—poor finances, embarrassment, uncertainty about where to go, or lack of knowledge about the seriousness of the condition.
Without treatment, depression can last for weeks, months or even years. Besides feeling sad, tired and rundown, untreated depression can also increase the risk of other problems, including:
- Increased difficulty making decisions and facing life’s challenges.
- A weakened immune system, resulting in more and longer-lasting illnesses.
- Insomnia, which leads to fatigue, reduced mental clarity, and trouble concentrating.
- A higher risk of death in the event of a heart attack or stroke.
- Alcohol and drug use, abuse, and dependence.
- Long-term disability, resulting in lost wages and financial struggle.
- Strained relationships with family and friends.
- Suicidal thoughts and/or attempts. If you are seriously thinking about harming yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline (1-800-273-8255) right now.
Finding the Help You Need
Your primary care physician is qualified to evaluate you and rule out any underlying conditions that may be causing your symptoms. Be open and honest when talking with your doctor. Remember that depression is a real medical condition and says nothing about your character, willpower, or value as a person. Your doctor is specially trained and will not pass judgment or make your feel uncomfortable.
After discussing your symptoms and health status, your doctor will recommend treatment options for you, and may refer you to another professional (such as a nurse practitioner, psychiatric nurse specialist, social worker, mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist) for further evaluation or counseling. A combination of medication and therapy is the most common treatment method.
Other Sources of Help
If you don’t have insurance or can't afford to visit a primary care doctor, try visiting a:
- Community mental health center
- University-affiliated health center
- Employee assistance program
- Faith-based clinic or clergy
- Family & social service agency or social worker
- Free health clinic
You should work closely with your health care provider to come up with the best treatment plan for you. These plans usually involve some combination of psychotherapy, medication, lifestyle changes (diet and exercise), and alternative therapies like yoga, meditation and visualization. The good news is that you don’t have to live with depression, a condition that is entirely treatable. More than 80% of people with depression benefit from treatment and can live fulfilling, productive lives.