If you suffer from depression and you take the decision to get some help, it can be confusing as to which doctor you should see.
Should you go to you your primary doctor first? Maybe you should see a specialist doctor. Or perhaps look at an alternative doctor?
Many, many questions arise when you look at different types of specialists. It’s difficult to know whom to contact first. It’s also difficult to know where to find the doctors who specialize in depression.
Let’s see if this blog can help take you through some of the available options which could allow you to make all informed decisions about which doctor to see when you suffer from depression.
It maybe that you don’t need to see a doctor at all but a qualified professional more suited to your specific depression.
GP Or Primary Care Physician
It’s a good idea to see your GP first because
they can assess your present condition and circumstances.
They can also eliminate certain conditions that might explain or exacerbate depression.
Examples of thing they would want to eliminate include:
Certain medications for other illnesses
Having suffered a life trauma as in death of someone close or divorce
Having recently been diagnosed with another illness
Once your GP or primary care physician has established that there are no obvious external factors in triggering an episode of depression, they will move on to further assessments.
They will probably go through some basic questions that all doctors ask to screen each person for depression.
These questions are based on the HAMILTON DEPRESSION RATING SCALE (HAM-D).
Your primary care doctor can then prescribe treatment for the depression. The first line option is very often a course of antidepressants.
Antidepressants have been developed on the basis that depression is as a result of imbalance of brain chemicals and antidepressants can rebalance them.
I have written extensively on antidepressants, their effectiveness and their side effects.
If your primary care doctor has decided to put you on antidepressants, there are some questions that you may want to ask. For example:
What’s the percentage chance of the antidepressants working?
What are their side effects?
How long do they take to work?
What difference will I notice once they start working?
What are the risks in taking antidepressants?
If you are taking other medication you could ask if the antidepressants will affect them.
Your primary physician or GP should then follow up with an appointment at sometime in the future.
The Antidepressants I Was Prescribed By My Doctor Aren’t Helping The Depression, Which Doctor To See Now?
You may want to see a more specialist doctor who can help with a specialized diagnosis and different treatment plan. This would be a psychiatrist.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has trained in mental health.
Psychiatrists have an acute understanding of all types of drugs for mood disorders and they can prescribe medication to cover bipolar, schizophrenia and severe depression.
Psychiatrists can also provide other treatments, for example:
Specialised Antidepressant medication
Admittance to a psychiatric unit
How Do I Find a Psychiatrist?
The best way to find a psychiatrist is to ask your primary care doctor. They will be able to signpost you to the right specialist for you.
In the UK you can see a psychiatrist on the NHS however the waiting list is very long.
It is possible to make an appointment to see a consultant psychiatrist privately. The charges for seeing a private psychiatrist will be variable but a benchmark figure is around £300 pounds or $500 dollars per hour.
A psychologist is qualified in psychology. If they have a doctorate, they may be called a doctor that they are not the same as a medical doctor.
Psychologists have at least six years of training and supervised experience to qualify. They specialize in psychological therapies, psychotherapy or talking therapies.
These treatments involve talking about thoughts and feelings with the psychologist who will offer their own insight and guidance. The idea behind psychological treatment is that you will:
Better understand your behavior
Better understand your problems
Better understand your thinking
Better understand your symptoms of depression
Learn to resolve your problems
Change your behavior for the better
Reduce your symptoms
Improve the quality of your life
Psychological treatment can be helpful for people of all ages with emotional and mental health issues. It can help people from all different backgrounds and can be delivered on a one-one session or as part of a group.
What Can Psychological Treatment Help Me With?
Here's some examples of what psychologists can help with:
Different kinds of addiction
Extreme anxiety or stress
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Other personality disorders
Other emotional problems
What Types of Psychological Treatments Can I Have?
There is a wide range of different psychological treatments and they offer different approaches depending on what you seek psychological therapy for.
Here are some of them:
Cognitive behavioural therapy
Acceptance and commitment therapy
Cognitive analytical therapy
How Long Will it Take For my Depression to Get Better?
Psychological treatment is no quick fix.
Some people feel better immediately simply because they are opening up and sharing their problems for the first time. This can feel overwhelmingly like a relief after holding in the pain for so long.
For many, however, is can take a long time to feel any difference. Some people I have spoken to said it took 5 years with a psychologist before they began to feel the depression lift.
How Can I Find a Psychologist?
You can be signposted to a psychologist by your psychiatrist. You can also find a psychologist privately. The cost for seeing a private psychologist can start from £75 or $100 upwards to £300 or $500 per hour. Sometimes private psychologists will adjust fees according to income and needs.
What’s The Difference Between Psychologist And A Psychiatrist?
Although psychologists and psychiatrists both study thoughts, emotions and the brain, there is a distinct difference between them. The training.
Psychiatrists or medical doctors and undergo about 11 years of training. Psychologists are not necessarily medical doctors and only need a University degree to practice.
Psychiatrists and psychologists often work closely together and refer their patients to each other. But only the psychiatrist can administer drug treatments.
If a psychologist is working with someone and they feel they need to be seen are someone who could prescribe antidepressants, they may refer them to psychiatrist.
Because a psychiatrist’s focus is more towards disorders of the brain and the chemical imbalance, they would often refer patients to psychologists to receive talking therapies.
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If I'm Still Suffering From Depression, Which Doctor Should I See? Or Should I See A Doctor At All?
It could be that you don’t need a doctor.
“I suffered from a very severe depression and it was so bad I attempted suicide. I couldn’t see any good reason to live. My life had fallen apart when I discovered that my husband had abused my children when they were little. I didn’t know which way to turn and the only option available to me was to end it. After my failed attempt I was put into a psychiatric unit and was given some pretty heavy drugs. I can’t even remember what I took - I was out of it for six months. When I was discharged I wasn’t offered any back up support and the depression returned. I asked someone I knew who’d had very bad depression for help. She recommended some counseling and put me in touch with a charity that offered treatment at a price I could afford. It was the counseling that saved me and I’m back on my feet.” Krista.
It might be that it’s not a doctor you need but a counselor.
When you are so depressed that you feel you have no options, it might be better to talk to someone who will listen and can really hear you.
In my experience being heard is one of the significant steps to coming out of the depressive cycle. This is what counselors do – they really, really listen.
There are different type of counselors, or therapists, that use different approaches. But all of them offer the space for the patient to feel heard.
Doctors don’t have the time to listen week in week out and psychiatrists appear to be very focused on administering specific types of drugs.
Psychologists, on the other hand, make better listeners in my experience but are often focused on changing thoughts or behaviors and less focused on emotion.
Counselors are another step up because they also want to know how you feel. They have empathy and an understanding that your journey is unique to you.
It can be hard to get in touch with feelings, express them then release them. All the while entrusting your secrets with another person.
But having someone accept them, is a fast track to recoveryand a very healing journey.
Once the healing begins, counseling treatments can help us to recognize our strengths, access our resilience and encourage positive change.
There are different types of counseling and lots of information is readily available online. What I would suggest is finding one that suits you. It’s often the person we warm to rather than the particular therapeutic approach.
It can be very helpful to discuss the relationship you have with a counselor in the counseling session. Even if you don’t trust the counselor, talking about your lack of trust can be groundbreaking and help shift the blocks.
One of the problems for people who suffer from depression is that we learn to not trust others.
If we had trusted other people we may have shared our problems with them. However, because we may think our problems are too awful or insurmountable, we shove them to the back of our minds. Learning to trust a counselor enough to open up to them can be as beneficial as discussing the depression itself.
In terms of suffering from depression, which doctor to see and identifying the right person for you, there is no harm in seeking help from anyone as long as it’s making you feel better.