Getting a Depression Diagnosis

Getting a diagnosis for depression

Your first visit will probably be to your family doctor. She may treat you herself or may refer you to a consultant psychiatrist. Alternatively, she may send you for various diagnostic tests in order to eliminate any physical illness. In this case, only when the results are received will she consider a psychiatric diagnosis.

If you are not satisfied with her diagnosis, be sure to ask for a referral to a hospital consultant. If you are not satisfied with the hospital consultant’s diagnosis, you are within your rights to ask your family doctor for a second consultant opinion.

Asking the right questions
Doctors today expect their patients to ask questions, so don’t be reluctant to do so. Remember, you have only a limited amount of time with the doctor and it is important to obtain the answers you are seeking. If it helps, write a list of your questions in advance.

You may wish to ask some of the following:

  • Why do I feel like this?
  • What has caused it?
  • How long will it go on for?
  • Is it safe to drive?
  • How long will the treatment take?
  • Is it safe to take this treatment with the medication that I am already on (for another condition)?
  • Will there be any side effects?
  • What can I best do to help myself get better?
  • When will I be able to go back to work?
  • Does my employer have to know?

You may be referred to one of these specialist:

  • Counselor
  • Marital therapist
  • Psychotherapist
  • Psychologist
  • Cognitive therapist
  • Behavioral therapist
  • Psychiatrist

Each one can help by discussing your condition and problems with you in greater detail and at more length than the family doctor. Only the psychiatrist can prescribe medication. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and can, therefore, prescribe drugs. Other specialist may not be doctors.

I’m not depressed!
Many people find it hard to believe a diagnosis of depression. This is not unusual. Even people who have been depressed before may be unable to believe that a second episode is upon them. One of the hallmarks of depression is losing your normal insight and mental focus. We may not realize how depressed we have become, particularly if it has come on slowly. We may think that we are being lazy or negative or that we have some other debilitating illness.


  • If you strongly suspect a diagnosis yourself, do discuss it with your doctor.
  • If you feel you are slipping into depression, consult your doctor without delay.

Key Facts: You really need to know the diagnosis of your condition and the reasons for the diagnosis. You can obtain a second opinion if you would like one. Depression is a recognizable illness and not merely being lazy or negative.