Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Depression

The following is a list of questions for discussion with your doctor about depression from Second Opinion. But it is not a comprehensive list.

  • What exactly is depression? Is there a widely accepted definition?
  • What are the differences between bipolar and unipolar depression? Are there other types of depression?
  • Is there a difference between depression and a "mood disorder"?
  • How do I know if I suffer from depression or am simply going through a "rough patch"?
  • What causes depression?
  • What are the most common symptoms?
  • Does depression affect appetite or diet? Sleep patterns? Energy level? How I view and relate to other people?
  • What are the most common treatments?
  • What is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or cognitive psychotherapy (CT)?
  • What about the concerns I've heard about anti-depressant medicines?
  • What about the concerns I've heard about electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)?
  • Are there reasons a doctor might disagree with prescribing a certain treatment, say, specific anti-depressants or ECT?

If you believe you suffer from depression:

  • Can I be depressed and still work and function more or less normally?
  • Is there a relationship between emotional suffering and depression?
  • What sort of "environmental" or circumstantial changes affect mental health?
  • What's the connection, if any, between depression and physical pain?
  • What's the role, if any, of genetics or biological factors in depression?
  • What goes into a doctor's development of a diagnosis?
  • Why do some people become depressed while others don't?
  • My child seems to be always depressed. What can I as a parent do?

If you have received a diagnosis of depression:

  • How did you reach your diagnosis? What specifically leads you to believe that I suffer from depression?
  • Is there anything I should stop or start doing to help my situation?
  • Which treatments do you prefer, and why?
  • Do medications lose their effectiveness the longer a patient takes them?
  • How do I deal with the stigma of my diagnosis?
  • What's wrong with me that I should suffer from depression? Why can't I "cope"?
  • How can I be sure you're providing me with the appropriate care and treatment?
  • I've heard of the patient forming a "therapeutic alliance" with the doctor? What is that?

This article reprinted with permission from Second Opinion, a public television health program hosted by Dr. Peter Salgo and produced by WXXI (Rochester, N.Y.),  West 175 and the University of Rochester Medical Center.

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