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Having such a heavy family history with mood disorders greatly increases the probability that you will have a mood disorder, too. The key is to look at how it is affecting your life (your work, your relationships, your friendships, your self-esteem, your ability to do things you enjoy, etc.). If the symptoms are causing impairment in these areas of your life then it might be time to consider counseling or medication treatment (or both).
If you see a counselor and pay for it out of pocket, it will not affect your future premiums unless you admit to them that you've seen a counselor in the past. If you decide to use your insurance for therapy or medication, you can talk to the provider about your concern. Most providers are going to use the least stigmatizing diagnosis when dealing with insurance companies if possible, such as Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood instead of Major Depressive Disorder
. We may need to escalate the severity of the treatment diagnosis when intensive, prolonged, or inpatient treatment is necessary. You may also consider seeing your family doctor for antidepressant medication, which may be put in your insurance records as stress
related. Again, talk to your provider to find out the details.
Antidepressant medication is difficult in that everyone responds to them differently. What made you sick is someone else's miracle drug. Finding the right medication, and the right dose, can take time. Many people try 2 to 3 medications before they find the one that gives them the most benefit with the fewest negative side-effects. Some with medication-resistant depression may need more than one medication at a time to deal with their symptoms. So don't let your experiment with Zoloft scare you off of all meds.
Since you have a strong family history of Bipolar, you need to rule that out in yourself. Antidepressants used alone without mood stabilizers can make people with Bipolar disorder worse.
Most antidepressants have mild side-effects that begin to disappear after the first 2-4 weeks of use. Severe side-effects usually indicate that the medication dose is too high, or that that specific medication does not work well in your body. Most people begin to notice improvements in 2-4 weeks if the antidepressant is going to work, although the full effects can take 4-8 weeks to fully kick in. Many doctors will want you to stay on a medication for 2-4 weeks before they increase your dose if you are having some benefit but not enough benefit that should be expected from medication use.
The cost of treatment will really depend on what avenue you decide to pursue. If you live in an area that offers low cost therapy (such as at a university that trains counselors or psychologists), you may be able to find sessions for 5-20$. If you decide to pay out of pocket for a fully licensed counselor, fees typically run 50-100$. Medical doctors and psychiatrists for medication can run 80-200$ for your initial visit, with rates 25-50% lower for follow-up visits (usually monthly for the first few months until the medication seems stable, then every 3-6 months after that for maintenance). The actual antidepressant medication can run anywhere from $4 (the generic programs at Walmart, Target, and other big chains) to an average of probably 100-200$/mo for brand name medications or the more expensive generics.
Treating depression isn't cheap. But the damage depression does to your life can be huge. Treatment may be the best investment you can make in your own health and happiness, and can drastically change your future.