When doctors talk about depression, they are referring to the serious medical illness called major depression. Someone who has major depression has severe, long-lasting symptoms that interfere with their ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. Some symptoms of depression are: feeling sad, hopeless, irritable, anxious, or guilty; loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy; feeling very tired; overeating, or not wanting to eat; insomnia, or sleeping too much; and thoughts of suicide.
Depression can affect people of all ages and is different for every person. A person who has depression can’t control his or her depressed feelings. For more information about depression, see the NC Health Info page on Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder and Depression.
Depression can be treated by a wide range of mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses, and licensed professional counselors. You may need to visit with several different providers before you find the right match. A good relationship with your mental health provider will help you get the most out of your treatment.
You can use your health insurance plan’s directory to find a mental health provider in your network. If you have Medicare, you can use the Physician Compare directory from Medicare.gov to find a provider that accepts it. Other directories for specific types of providers are listed below.
Providers who can diagnose, treat, and prescribe medications for depression
A family physician is a general practitioner with additional specialty training and expertise in dealing with patients of all ages. Family physicians may provide both preventive care (routine checkups), as well as diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses. A family physician is often your first step in navigating the mental health system. They may make diagnoses, prescribe medication, or refer a patient to a mental health provider. Family physicians will coordinate your care with other subspecialists when needed. Use the American Board of Family Medicine to find a family physician.
Internal medicine specialists, also known as internists, focus on treating adult and adolescent medical disorders and provide long-term, comprehensive care. Internists are trained to treat the whole body, not just the internal organs, and they see patients for a variety of conditions and complaints. Internists often provide preventive medicine and patient education services. Use the American Board of Medical Specialties Certification Matters service to find a board certified internist near you. You must register first. Choose North Carolina as the state and “Internal Medicine” as the specialty.
A psychiatrist specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illness and substance abuse disorders. Psychiatrists are uniquely qualified to understand the complex interrelation between mental and physical health since their training includes four years of medical school and at least three additional years in a psychiatric residency. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications. The North Carolina Psychiatric Association directory includes psychiatrists who have chosen to submit information about their practices. The North Carolina Medical Board directory lists psychiatrists licensed to practice in North Carolina.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners
Providers who can provide counseling and support for depression but cannot prescribe medicines
Psychologists have graduate-level training in psychology and either a Ph.D, or Psy.D (Doctor of Psychology). North Carolina allows limited practice with a Master of Psychology degree. The North Carolina Psychological Association maintains this directory of psychologists. You can search by gender, ages served, insurance accepted, languages spoken and more. Choose “Depression” from the “Issue” dropdown.
Licensed Clinical Social Workers
Licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) can diagnose mental illnesses and be involved in direct therapy with patients in private practice or they might be part of a team conducting research for a university, hospital, or private organization. They sometimes work as case managers helping people solve problems and connecting them to various resources. Most LCSW programs require thousands of hours of direct clinical experience. In North Carolina, LCSWs must be licensed by the state. Use the HelpPRO Advanced Search to find a LCSW. Choose “Depression” from the “Specializes in this concern” dropdown and “Social Worker, Licensed Clinical” under the “Holds this credential, certification, or has completed training in” dropdown. This directory provides a good deal of information about individual LCSWs but does not include license status. To review a LCSW’s license, use the License Lookup from the North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board. Choose “Licensed Clinical Social Worker” from the “Certification” dropdown.
Licensed Professional Counselors
Licensed professional counselors (LPCs) have master’s degrees and are trained to work with individuals, families, and groups in treating mental, behavioral, and emotional problems and disorders, including depression. In North Carolina, LPCs must be licensed by the state. To find a LPC near you, use this directory from the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of North Carolina. Choose “Depression” under the Primary Specialty or Area of Expertise dropdown. This directory provides a good deal of information about individual LPCs but does not include license status. To review a counselor’s license, use the License Verification Search Form from the North Carolina Board of Licensed Professional Counselors.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Complementary and Alternative Therapies, sometimes called Complementary and Integrative Medicine, are treatments that are not part of standard medicine, such as acupuncture, chiropractic, or dietary supplements. It is a term used for a wide variety of health care practices that may be used along with, or instead of, mainstream medical treatment. [An example of such therapy is using acupuncture or meditation to relieve anxiety.] For more information on the use of Complementary and Alternative Therapies related to depression, please visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
If you are thinking of using any herbal supplement as a treatment for depression, talk to your doctor first, especially if you take other medications. Interaction between some herbal supplements and certain medications can cause serious side effects. The Mayo Clinic discusses different herbal remedies and mind-body techniques that have been studied to treat depression.
Clinical trials are research studies that examine whether a medical treatment or device is safe and effective for human beings. Many of the drugs and therapies available today are the result of clinical trials. To learn more, and to decide whether participating in a clinical trial is right for you, visit ClinicalTrials.gov, a service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Mental Health Clinics, Treatment Programs or Hospitals
To find a mental health facility or program, use the Mental Health Treatment Facility Locator from the US Department of Health and Human Services. This locator includes public, private (both for-profit and non-profit) and Department of Veterans Affairs’ facilities. Choose “Select Services” to specify treatment approach, insurance accepted, preferred language, age groups served and more.
Free and Discounted Services: There are a number of free and discounted services in North Carolina that you may qualify for, including free urgent care clinics and help with paying for your medications or health insurance. Check out our Free and Discounted Services page to learn more.
Support groups allow people to come together to share their stories, experiences, and lives. Talking with others who share your challenges can help you see that there are others who may dealing with similar situations and who may have helpful advice from their perspective as a patient or family member.
For information about support groups and education opportunities near you, consult the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) North Carolina chapter..
Finding Help in a Crisis
Behavioral health crises can be serious but most do not require an evaluation at a hospital emergency department. Using other specialized crisis services, listed in the directory below, may help connect you more quickly to ongoing resources to support your recovery and avoid a lengthy emergency department visit.
North Carolina’s publicly funded crisis services—which may be used by anyone regardless of insurance status or ability to pay, can be found by using the NC Department of Health and Human Services directory,searchable by county.
Need More Information?
Do you have a health related question? You are welcome to use the Health Sciences Library’s Ask a Librarian service.
Our librarians are happy to help you with questions such as “How is diabetes diagnosed?” or “What is heart disease?”. We can not answer questions about an individual’s medical case or care. Please contact your doctor for specific medical advice.
Page authored by UNC Health Sciences Library Staff.