A GP, or general practitioner, can help to diagnose, treat and possibly prevent cases of depression. There are a variety of tests, both physical and psychological, that a GP can conduct to determine whether depressive symptoms are caused by depression or some other disorder. Once a GP has made a diagnosis of depression she can aid in the treatment process as well.
GP stands for general practitioner. A general practitioner is a doctor that treats all types of illness, as opposed to a specialist. There are a number of ways in which a GP can help people who have symptoms of depression. GPs can help to accurately diagnosis people if they are depressed. GPs have experience with different types of conditions and they can be impartial listeners. If a patient has a severe case of depression and needs to see a specialist, a GP can refer one.
Depression, which may also be referred to as major depression, is a serious mental disorder that can make daily functioning difficult or impossible. The main symptom of depression is a prolonged period of sadness. Other symptoms include social withdrawal, loss of interest in hobbies and previously enjoyed activities, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and changes in appetite. Severe cases of depression may cause a person to consider or attempt suicide.
According to the National Health Service in England (NHS), there are no clinical tests for the diagnosis of depression, and a GP relies on interviews and questionnaires regarding a person's recent feelings and moods to help make a diagnosis. A GP may also conduct a physical examination and laboratory tests to rule out other conditions that may be causing depressive symptoms.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM lists the diagnostic criteria for depression and other mental disorders. A GP will most likely diagnose depression if a person exhibits the symptoms listed in the DSM.
According to research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2003, two questions, asked verbally by a GP can detect most cases of depression. The two questions are, "During the past month have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?" and, "During the past month have you often been bothered by little interest or pleasure in doing things?"
In 2008, a research team from the University College London developed a test for predicting the risk of someone developing depression. The test, which is described in an article from PsychCentral.com, is called the risk algorithm and it is a potential method of helping GPs prevent the onset of depression. Responses to an online questionnaire are used to determine the risk of developing depression, just as similar tests are used to calculate the risk of heart problems.