Can a Primary Care Provider Help with Depression?

While you know you can depend on your primary care provider to help you manage your physical health, you may be surprised to find out that they’re also trained to treat common mental health conditions. Primary care physicians handle about 32% of mental health-related office visits in the U.S., according to CDC data. 

One of the most common mental health conditions that primary care providers encounter is depression. Depression affects up to 9% of the U.S. adult population and up to 13% of patients in primary care settings. 

If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, a primary care provider can help you determine the cause of your depression, achieve relief with antidepressants, and/or obtain ongoing psychotherapy services with an appropriate mental health provider, depending on your condition.

You’ll feel more comfortable discussing your feelings of depression or any other mental health condition when you’re working with a provider you trust. The primary care providers at Macomb Medical Clinic in Sterling Heights, Michigan, provide professional and caring mental health support for patients experiencing depression and other challenges. The compassionate staff has the expertise necessary to assess your condition and determine the best strategies for your treatment and care. 

Administer depression screening

With about 20% of U.S. adults experiencing mental illness, mental health disorders are becoming increasingly common. However, research indicates that only 43% of those with mental disorders receive the care they need. 

Depression screening helps to bridge this gap by identifying patients who need services in an environment where they can get help. 

Whether you’re visiting your primary care provider for your annual wellness exam or relief from allergies, you may be given a depression screening quiz. The Patient Health Questionnaire-2, or PHQ-2, is commonly used to initiate a conversation on depression. This short, two-question quiz asks how often you’ve had a depressed mood and how often you’ve felt disinterested in doing things over the past two weeks. 

Patients who score a 3 or higher on a scale of 0 to 6 are given further screening for a more extensive assessment of symptoms and potential causes. This second level of screening typically involves the PHQ-9 assessment. The Geriatric Depression Scale may be used if you’re an older adult. 

Depression screenings alert your primary care provider about your struggles so they can determine your need for further evaluation or treatment. These tools are particularly useful if you’re not comfortable voicing your concerns directly or can’t quite explain how you’re feeling.

Determine appropriate treatment

Your primary care provider is uniquely qualified to interpret the results of depression screening or evaluate your concerns about feelings that are challenging you. With knowledge of your medical history and current health condition, they can determine whether there’s a relationship between physical factors and your feelings of depression. 

Having a chronic illness increases your risk of depression. Depression commonly occurs with chronic diseases including diabetes and cancer. However, the condition can also develop as the result of conditions like stroke or Parkinson’s disease that cause physical changes in your brain. 

In some cases, the medications used to treat chronic diseases can cause feelings of depression as a side effect. Your primary care physician has the knowledge necessary to assess your overall health needs and make the adjustments necessary to ensure that medications aren’t contributing to your mental health symptoms. 

When appropriate, your primary care provider is also qualified to prescribe antidepressants to help stabilize your situation. While this may not be a permanent, long-term solution, it can help you find balance as you plan for your next steps.

Strategize for long-term solutions

Depending on your condition and other factors, your primary care provider may or may not be equipped to provide a full scope of treatment for your depression. However, they can be a valuable source in helping you strategize ways to handle your depression. 

With knowledge of your physical and mental conditions, and their professional expertise, your primary care provider can suggest lifestyle changes and connect you with appropriate support groups. They can also monitor your physical health to ensure that your emotional health doesn’t negatively affect ongoing chronic conditions or other aspects of your well-being.

If necessary, a primary care provider can refer you to a local psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health provider who aligns with the type of treatment you need. This can save time and prevent frustration in trying to navigate the mental health care system on your own. 

Don’t suffer alone with feelings of depression. The primary care providers at Macomb Medical Center can determine the source of your feelings and help you receive the support and treatment you need to improve. Call our office today to arrange a consultation. 

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