Seeing a doctor for sadness: What your GP can do about depression

ABC News

Taboos around mental health mean many people are reluctant to ask for help but, as with other illnesses, your GP can help you recover from depression.

Emergency department doctor Casey Parker said that when people overcame their reluctance to talk to their GP about depression, they often felt a sense of relief.

Feeling sad and low at times is part of a normal, healthy life. But Dr Parker said a GP would try to establish if the feelings were more severe and persistent, and if they could be part of the serious illness that is depression.


"Mental illness can present itself in all sorts of different symptoms, and it could be anything from just feeling a bit tired and run-down, disturbed sleep, to sometimes some really physical manifestations, which can be really hard to tease out when someone's actually got a physical disease," he said.

Depression is by far and away the most common mental illness that we see in general practice and society as a whole. A history of depression can help diagnosis, but it is an illness that can first strike at any stage of life.

The different ways depression can affect people make it a common disease. "Depression is by far and away the most common mental illness that we see in general practice and society as a whole," Dr Parker said.

The good news is that what can seem like an unsolvable problem can often be treated by your GP. "Depression is very much like being in a deep hole, in a mental sort of hole, where you can only really see a very narrow tunnel of what's going on around you," Dr Parker said.

One of the first steps will be establishing if the patient is making lifestyle choices that are making them more susceptible to depression.

"Often what people feel like doing when they're depressed may actually be counter-intuitive, and so drinking and taking drugs is a classic example," Dr Parker said.

Simply looking after yourself with plenty of sleep, good food and exercise can be a big boost in fighting off depression.

A GP will also be interested in your relationships with friends and family, and how they can help recovery from depression. GPs can also treat depression directly with medication and counselling.

"Most people have a transient depression, and with treatment it will go away," Dr Parker said.

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