Warning signs of depression and getting tested after a heart attack
Knowing whether it's depression
Is it really depression or just a case of the blues? It's not always easy to tell the difference. And you may be thinking that the person in your care has good reason to feel down in the dumps. After all, he's just had a heart attack. But there's a difference between the normal grieving process and depression. The warning signs of depression include:
- Frequent crying episodes
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Poor appetite or increased appetite
- Sleeping too much or not enough
- Increased agitation and restlessness
- Loss of interest in life
- Expressing thoughts of dying or suicide
The patient should be evaluated for depression if he has had several of these symptoms for more than two weeks.
Encourage the patient to go for testing
If you believe he's depressed, the first step is to talk to him about his feelings. This isn't always easy, especially if he isn't used to expressing emotions. Ask him if he's feeling sad or hopeless. Try to get an idea if it's really depression or just a temporary case of the blues.
The next step is to schedule an evaluation. His primary care physician may want to talk to him first, or she may refer him to a psychiatrist or counselor. In any case, the evaluating doctor will talk to him and assess his mood. She may also order screening tests to rule out other medical conditions that can mimic depression, such as a thyroid disorder or infection.
If he's resistant to the idea of testing because he's embarrassed or afraid, help him understand that a diagnosis of depression isn't the shameful secret it once was. It doesn't mean he's "crazy" or is going to be taken away to a nursing home. What's more, his test results are private, so no one but he and his doctor needs to know.
If he absolutely refuses to see a doctor, there's not a whole lot you can do. You can't force the issue unless he's psychotic or suicidal, or his depression has progressed to the point where he can no longer take care of himself. If none of those circumstances apply, your best bet is to enlist family members and friends to try to persuade him to seek help.