As primary care providers, we treat a lot more cases of depression than people may realize,” says Dr. Lorraine Nardi of Premier’s Internal Medicine Division. Over 16 percent of Americans will experience serious depression at some point in their lives, and statistics show that primary care physicians are the sole medical contact for more than half of them. “Some people find it easier to speak with their primary, they’re comfortable with that person,” Nardi says. “Also, depression can affect many other medical conditions and give rise to real physical symptoms. People should understand the mind is not disconnected from the body.
“Too many of my patients feel that they shouldn’t allow depression to happen. They feel like they should be able to talk themselves out of it; just pick themselves up out of it,” says Nardi. “They don’t think of depression the way one would think of, let’s say, diabetes. Yet, there is a large component of depression that is like diabetes: mainly, we now believe that a lot of depression—as well as anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disease—has to do with chemical imbalances in the brain. In depression, the chemical involved is serotonin, which may not be secreted at a high enough level for a given individual.”
There is a difference between feeling sad and being depressed. “When depression interferes with function—not sleeping, not getting along with coworkers, irritability, malaise— it colors a person’s whole life. That’s where we step in,” says Nardi.
“We always advise a patient to seek counseling, but that alone is not going to raise their brain serotonin level,” says Nardi. “Some people need medication to raise serotonin levels enough to help them deal with a period of stress; some may need it forever. The optimal way to treat the condition is with medication in tandem with counseling.”
Some patients are resistant to seeking treatment. “Patients will say they don’t want to take medication for depression because it is habit forming,” Nardi says. “Tranquilizers are habit-forming, that’s a completely different issue. Medications for depression are not habit-forming.”
To make an appointment with Premier’s Internal Medicine Division please call 845.790.6100