Depression or a Medical Condition?

depression or medical condition

Are you suffering from depression or a medical condition? Depression can be a symptom of an undiagnosed medical condition.

Decision trees are used in psychotherapy much like they are in other professions. At the top of the decision tree are always two items to rule out FIRST, before making a mental health diagnosis.

  1. A general medical condition or
  2. A chemical dependency

As a rule-of-thumb if it has been longer than 2 years since you have had a thorough medical examination it’s time to call and schedule that appointment. Please, don’t put it off until tomorrow, do it today (Are you hearing that gentlemen?) 😉

When I speak of “thorough medical examination” I mean the actual physical exam given by your family doctor and a full blood workup as well.

There are many diseases and medical issues that can cause depressive symptoms. Common ones include: AIDS, anemia, cancer, congestive heart failure, diabetes, infectious hepatitis, malnutrition, MS, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid conditions.

The order of this decision tree is very important. You don’t want to treat what you think is a depression problem, if there’s a medical condition going unnoticed, untreated and becoming worse.

Additionally, you will waste valuable time and money treating a secondary condition that may well disappear if you are treated for the primary medical condition at the beginning.

I’m a psychotherapist, and NO, I’m not trying to chase off business! I am, however, interested in you getting better.

I speculate that the growing trend in “atypical depression,” or untreatable depression, lies partly in untreated health problems. And, in particular, malnutrition. Did you know that one study showed that 80% of Americans suffer from malnutrition? Hard to believe? The new field of Metabolic Typing has shed tremendous light on this subject, and you may have heard it referred to as “Syndrome X.”

There are times when it’s not this simple. You may be convinced you have a medical problem, but all the tests come back negative. In that case, your best bet is to treat the depression and become your own information sleuth and/or seek a second opinion. Modern medicine continues to make tremendous leaps forward, but it is not perfect.

Also be aware that you may simply have depression and are struggling with acceptance. Many people wrestle with the fact that there is no concrete test, like a blood test, that you can get to verify if depression is, with certainty, the culprit. That’s very understandable, but don’t allow it to get in the way of receiving proper help. You and those you love do not need to suffer needlessly.

Another complex situation involves when you may need to be treated for both a medical condition and a depression condition. Even then, a doctor should first treat your medical condition and monitor the depression to see if it subsides with the treatment you’re receiving. The doctor can always recommend an antidepressant and psychotherapy as needed. The only exception to this rule is if you have severe depression and are in danger of suicide. Then you may require immediate hospitalization for the purpose of emotion stabilization.

All my best in your recovery efforts!


Dave Turo-Shields, ACSW, LCSW is an author, university faculty member, success coach and veteran psychotherapist whose passion is guiding others to their own success in life. For weekly doses of the webs HOTTEST success tips, sign up for Dave’s powerful “Feeling Great!” ezine at http://www.Overcoming-Depression.com

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