TreatmentAny individual believing they are experiencing depression should first by evaluated by their physician. Depressive symptoms can often appear similar to those caused by medical conditions (i.e. viral infections) or medications. Once these possibilities have been ruled out through examination, interview, and laboratory tests the individual should be referred for a psychological evaluation.
A psychological evaluation seeks to understand the individual’s personal experience of their symptoms, including when they began, any known triggers, their severity, and how frequently they have occurred in one’s lifetime. The individual should be questioned about previous treatments (if any) and how successful they were. Certain questions will concern any history of drug and/or alcohol use, and any presence of suicidal thoughts, or even previous suicide attempts. The evaluator will likely ask about family history of mental health symptoms, whether similar or dissimilar to the individual’s experiences. Lastly, a diagnostic evaluation should include a mental status examination which seeks to determine if depressive symptoms have altered the individual’s memory, speech, and thought patterns. All this information is extremely useful to determine appropriate treatment options for the individual.
Treatment options are evaluated based on diagnostic information provided, which may include psychotherapy, medication, or both. Milder forms of depressive disorders typically benefit from psychotherapy alone, whereas more moderate to severe depression may be best treated with antidepressants. A combination of both treatments typically maximizes results as medications are used to alleviate persistent symptoms, while psychotherapy provides the individual with coping mechanisms and additional support to help manage their symptoms.