I seem to have some of the symptoms of depression, but I am not the type of person who would get depressed. Should I see a doctor?

There is no “type” of person who gets depressed. Depression is a common condition that affects about 10% of us at any time. Your doctor may diagnose depression, but will also want to rule out several conditions that can have similar symptoms such as diabetes, liver disease and thyroid problems. Also, the quicker depression can be diagnosed and treated, the quicker (and easier) recovery is likely to be.

I don’t want to go to the doctor because I am worried that they will just give me pills, what would you advise?

Doctors now offer a range of non-pharmaceutical interventions for depression, including books and exercise on prescription, computerised cognitive therapy, brief focused counselling, and cognitive behavioural therapy. If your depression is mild or moderate, you will be offered one of these approaches before medication is considered. If, on the other hand, your depression is severe, then antidepressants are an important and effective treatment.

Is it okay to use herbal remedies for depression?

There are several herbal remedies that are sold as treatments for depression. However, only one – St. John’s Wort – has been properly tested both for safety and effectiveness. St. John’s Wort is an effective treatment for mild depression, but is considerably less effective for moderate-severe depression. However, St. John’s Wort can have dangerous interactions with a range of medications (including antidepressants), so it is important that you seek advice before using it. Also, you should consider visiting your doctor to make sure that your symptoms are not the result of an underlying physical health problem.

My medication is making me feel worse, should I stop taking it?

As with any medication, antidepressants can have unwanted (and occasionally unbearable) side effects. However, these are generally short-lived. If you have been taking your medication for more than a few weeks and the side effects have not improved, or if they are too unbearable, you should visit your doctor and ask if you can try a different antidepressant. It is important not to stop taking an antidepressant abruptly, as this can result in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.