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Are Primary Care Doctors Able to Prescribe Antidepressant Medications?

Absolutely, primary care providers (PCPs) can and do prescribe antidepressants. Antidepressants are commonly used medications to treat a variety of mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Although psychiatrists are commonly associated with prescribing antidepressants, PCPs are well-equipped to diagnose and treat mental health conditions.

In fact, a majority of antidepressant prescriptions in the United States are written by PCPs. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PCPs prescribe antidepressants for approximately 80% of patients with depression. Primary care providers are often the first point of contact for patients seeking treatment for mental health conditions, and we can refer patients to mental health specialists if needed.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or other mental health conditions, it is important to speak with your PCP. Your primary care provider can help diagnose and determine the best course of treatment for your individual needs, which may include medication, therapy, or (for the best outcomes) a combination of both.

It is important to note that while antidepressants can be an effective tool in treating mental health conditions, they should always be taken under the supervision of a medical professional. Working with a medical team, including a primary care provider or psychiatrist and a psychotherapist, can help ensure that you are receiving the most effective and appropriate treatment for your needs.

Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your PCP if you are struggling with symptoms of depression or other mental health conditions. Treatment is available and can greatly improve your quality of life.


Depression is a serious mental health condition that affects millions of people every year. Shockingly, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 50% of people with depression do not seek treatment. This statistic is concerning, especially considering the link between untreated depression and the increased risk of suicide.

If you are one of the many people who are hesitant to seek help for depression from your primary care team, here are the top 5 reasons we hear from our patients and suggestions on how and why to overcome these barriers:

  1. Stigma: Unfortunately, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health, and some people may be embarrassed or ashamed to seek help. However, seeking help for depression is a courageous and important step toward healing.
  2. Lack of knowledge: Some people may not be aware that primary care physicians are equipped to diagnose and treat depression. Psychiatric assessment is very often out of reach financially, and many psychiatrists have long wait times to get an appointment. Primary care physicians are well-versed in mental health and can provide effective treatment. Additionally, there are many medical diagnoses that can be an underlying cause for depression – from thyroid disease to sex hormone imbalances to vitamin deficiencies. Your primary care provider is the best resource to uncover and treat these possible underlying causes.
  3. Fear of medication: Some people may be hesitant to take medication for depression because they don’t want to be dependent on a prescription for life. However, medication can be an effective tool in managing symptoms of depression and improving quality of life, and most often, they are used short term. We look at it three months at a time and regularly reassess to ask and determine if the prescription is working, if we should consider trying something else, or can start tapering off.
  4. Cost: Some people may be worried about the cost of treatment. However, most insurance plans cover mental health services, and there are often low-cost or free options available.
  5. Denial: Some people may be in denial about their depression, believing that it will go away on its own. However, depression is a serious condition that very often requires treatment and will not resolve on its own. Ignoring it can lead to very sad and scary outcomes. We also believe you deserve to live your best life and not just suffer through it.

Remember, seeking help for depression is a brave and empowering step towards healing and improved mental health. Don’t let these barriers stop you from seeking the help you need. Your primary care physician is here to support you and provide effective treatment options.