If you are wondering when to see a doctor about depression, consider first that feeling down in the dumps is part of being alive. One day you're grumpy and out of sorts, spirits low; next day you're back in the groove, ready to dive into the things you love. But when, for two weeks or more, you feel like sitting out the rest of your life, you may be clinically depressed. Depression is a medical condition that requires treatment  – and can be helped – by a doctor. Experts suggest seeking help if you have any of these symptoms of depression:

  • Your low spirits persist for two weeks or more.
  • Your depression is interfering with your relationships and your job.
  • You have thoughts of harming yourself.
  • You have persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain not associated with arthritis that do not respond to routine treatment.
  • Your symptoms include any five of the following: sleeplessness or oversleeping; loss of appetite or overeating; frequent tears and feelings of sadness; inability to concentrate; little appetite for things you usually enjoy; fatigue; irritability, restlessness or moving about in slow motion; a feeling of worthlessness or pervasive guilt.

The above are typical symptoms of major depression. Less than half of the 10 to 40 percent of people with depressive symptoms have major depression. Other classifications of depression include:

Dysthymia. A less severe form of depression that includes long-lasting symptoms that do not seriously disable a person but keep one in a constant state of feeling down. Symptoms may include all of the above with the additional feeling of hopelessness.

Bipolar disorder. Also called manic-depressive disorder, it is characterized by extreme highs and lows in mood. The disorder affects thinking, judgment and social behavior. Symptoms include the above as well as racing thoughts, increased talking, unusual irritability and abnormal elation.