How to Tell Your Doctor You're Depressed

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If you haven't been feeling like yourself and think you might be depressed, speak with your family doctor first if you have one. If you don't have one, then scheduling an appointment with a general practitioner would be a good place to start.

The reason for this recommendation is that there are several medical conditions, such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, hormonal changes, and thyroid conditions that can cause symptoms similar to depression. It's also possible that your depressed feelings could be the result of medication side effects or some other cause.

By giving you a thorough checkup, your doctor can rule out any other potential causes of your depression symptoms. In addition, depending upon how your insurance works, it may be necessary to see your primary physician first in order to obtain a referral to a more specialized mental health care provider, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Depression Discussion Guide

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Asking for Help

While you may feel embarrassed to ask for help, it is not necessary to feel this way. Depression is a very common condition and your doctor is already quite familiar with it. It will not seem strange or shameful in any way to your doctor that you are feeling depressed.

In addition, you don't need to worry about your friends, family, or employer finding out about your depression. The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Privacy Rule prevents your physician from disclosing your private medical information without your permission.

How to Bring up Depression

Tell your doctor that you haven't been feeling like yourself and you believe that you might be depressed. This will open the door for your doctor to get you the help that you need.


Watch Now: 7 Most Common Types of Depression

Diagnostic Tests to Expect

Unfortunately, there isn't currently a definitive lab test that can be used to diagnose depression so your doctor will do a few things. First, your doctor will perform a physical exam and run several different blood tests to rule out other conditions that might be causing your symptoms. Some of the possible tests might include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Thyroid function check
  • Creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
  • Liver function check
  • Fasting blood glucose
  • Cholesterol
  • Calcium and magnesium level

Next, your doctor may ask you some questions to determine whether you have any possible risk factors for depression. Some of the known risk factors for depression include:

  • Being female
  • Being under stress
  • Undergoing adverse events during childhood
  • Having certain personality traits
  • Having a family history of depression
  • Not having many friends or personal relationships
  • Having recently given birth
  • Having a history of depression
  • Having a serious illness
  • Taking certain prescription medications
  • Drug or alcohol use

In addition, your doctor may ask you about what symptoms you are experiencing. Among the symptoms they might ask you about are:

  • Feelings of sadness or depression
  • Not enjoying things like you used to
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Insomnia or sleeping more than usual
  • Feeling restless
  • Feeling extremely tired
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling worthless
  • Feeling helpless
  • Feeling guilty
  • Having problems thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Thinking frequently about death or suicide

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Your doctor will supplement all of the information that you provide with their own observations of your behavior. People with depression often exhibit the following signs:

  • Appearing preoccupied
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Not remembering things or appearing to have trouble concentrating
  • Pacing, wringing their hands, or pulling at their hair
  • Appearing agitated
  • Speaking slowly with long pauses
  • Sighing
  • Moving slowly
  • Being self-deprecating
  • Crying or appearing sad

Treatment Options

If your doctor has ruled out other possible causes for how you are feeling and feels that your symptoms and history are indicative of depression, they will either opt to treat you using antidepressant medications or they may instead refer you to a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or psychotherapist (or both).

Psychiatrists have specialized training and expertise with using medications to treat depression and mental illness while psychotherapists specialize in using talk therapy to help you with your depression. A combination of the two approaches is often the best way to treat depression.


There are a number of different types of psychotherapy that can be effective in the treatment of depression.

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT): This type of therapy is usually a short-term approach (often between 5 and 15 sessions) that focuses on identifying negative thought patterns, replacing them with more helpful ones, and learning new coping strategies.
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT): Like CBT, this short-term therapy option focuses on identifying problems in relationships and then improving how people relate and communicate with others. 


Your doctor or psychiatrist may also prescribe some type of medication to treat your depression. Some of the different types of antidepressants that your doctor or psychiatrist may prescribe include:

Antidepressants usually begin to work within two to four weeks, although it may take as long as 12 weeks for them to reach full effectiveness.

Alternative and Complementary Medicine

Complementary medicine may also have beneficial effects on well-being when used in conjunction with psychotherapy and medication. Acupuncture, meditation, light therapy, and herbal supplements are some alternative options that you might consider.

You should always talk to your doctor before you try any type of alternative treatment. In the case of some herbal supplements, for example, you and your doctor need to consider possible drug interactions if you are currently taking or plan on taking antidepressants.


Self-care is an important part of coping with depression. There are a number of things that you can do that will complement your treatment plan. Here is an overview of what you can while getting treatment for depression.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Research has found that there is a complex relationship between sleep and depression. Sleep disturbances are common symptoms of depression, and studies suggest that there may be a reciprocal relationship between them. Poor sleep increases the risk of depression, and depression then leads to an increased risk of reduced sleep quality.

Exercise Regularly

Research suggests that regular physical activity can be effective in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. In more moderate to severe cases, exercise can be a beneficial complement to medication and therapy.

Eat a Healthy Diet

While researchers are still working to understand the link between diet and depression, there is little doubt that eating well can improve health and well-being. One 2017 study found symptoms of depression decreased when people had nutritional counseling and following a healthier diet for 12 weeks.

There is no specific diet to relieve depression symptoms. However, focusing on a varied diet that includes whole fresh foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables is a good place to start. 

Manage Stress

Chronic stress isn't healthy for anyone, but it's especially harmful if you or someone you love is living with depression. Stress can make it that much harder to maintain healthy habits and positive coping strategies needed to manage your depression symptoms.

Depression can also make it more difficult to control stress. For this reason, it's important to include proven stress management techniques like meditation, guided imagery, and deep breathing in your overall self-care plan.

A Word From Verywell 

While it might feel difficult at first to talk to your doctor about your feelings of depression, having this discussion is an important first step toward improving your well-being. Tell your doctor that you have been feeling down and that you suspect you might be depressed.

Your doctor can then rule out or treat any underlying medical conditions that might be contributing to your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatments. Starting this conversation can help you get the help and support that you need to start feeling better.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Health information privacy.

  3. Henssler J, Kurschus M, Franklin J, Bschor T, Baethge C. Trajectories of acute antidepressant efficacy: How long to wait for response? A systematic review and meta-analysis of long-term, placebo-controlled acute treatment trials. J Clin Psychiatry. 2018;79(3):17r11470. doi:10.4088/JCP.17r11470

  4. Nahas R, Sheikh O. Complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of major depressive disorderCan Fam Physician. 2011;57(6):659-663.

  5. Roberts RE, Duong HT. The prospective association between sleep deprivation and depression among adolescents. Sleep. 2014;37(2):239-44. doi:10.5665/sleep.3388

  6. Carek PJ, Laibstain SE, Carek SM. Exercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. 2011;41(1):15-28. doi:10.2190/PM.41.1.c

  7. Jacka FN, et al. A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the 'SMILES' trial). BMC Med. 2017;15(1):23. doi:10.1186/s12916-017-0791-y

Additional Reading

By Nancy Schimelpfening
Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be.