Depression is a serious disorder; however, the vast majority of people who seek help for it are treated successfully.
If you have been depressed, it’s a good idea to contact your family physician. His first task will be to eliminate any underlying disease that might be causing your depression by taking your medical history, doing a physical exam, and possibly taking a blood test. He will also do a depression screening test, which consists of asking questions similar to the ones you’ve just answered. If your doctor determines that there is no physical condition that is causing you to be depressed, he may suggest that you visit a therapist or a support group to begin working on the psychological problems that may be responsible for your depression. Many times, I’ve seen regular exercise work wonders on my depressed patients.
Medication is also a major part of treating depression. The tricyclic medications such as Amitryptyline and Elavil that were popular in the 80s are effective, but they also have many potential side effects, such as an irregular heart rate and low blood pressure, which are particularly dangerous for a person over 50 who has a history of cardiac problems. If you are taking Elavil, you will need to be monitored first with an electrocardiogram followed by blood pressure checks every few months.
The newer medications such as Prozac and Zoloft are very effective in stopping depression, and they’re also relatively safe.
If you’re being treated by a therapist with or without medication, you need to stick with it. A big problem that I see in my patients is that they prematurely end treatment because they’re feeling better. As with the use of antibiotics, any treatment for depression should continue past the point when the person simply starts to feel good again.