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Depression Diagnosis

Diagnosing depression
There are several other conditions whose symptoms may include depression. That's why mental health specialists use criteria found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose mental conditions like depression.  Diagnostic criteria for depression are based on the:

  • Type of symptoms present
  • Minimum number of symptoms experienced (at least 5)
  • Minimum amount of time symptoms manifest (nearly every day for at least 2 weeks)

Medical exams
The first step toward diagnosing depression is to visit your family doctor or a general practitioner. A doctor will first confirm that the symptoms of depression are not caused by another medical condition or medication(s).  A doctor can rule out these possibilities by conducting a physical examination, a psychological interview and your doctor may also request diagnostic laboratory tests.

Laboratory tests - Lab tests used to diagnose depression include a complete blood count , alcohol and drug screen, and thyroid function test(s).

Physical exam - A physical includes measuring height and weight; checking vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure and temperature; listening to the heart and lungs; and examining the abdomen.

Psychological evaluation - If your doctor excludes a medical condition as the cause of depression, you can next seek a referral to a mental health professional such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor or a social worker who is trained in psychological evaluation.  These specialists can administer a complete diagnostic evaluation. You will be asked questions about family history of depression and the complete history of the symptoms you experience.  Be prepared to answer questions such as:

  • Are you using alcohol and drugs?
  • When did depression symptoms start?
  • How long they have lasted?
  • What is the severity of the symptoms?
  • Have these symptoms occurred before and if so, how they were treated?
  • Have you experienced thoughts of death or suicide?

People diagnosed with depression can lead healthy and productive lives when the illness is effectively treated.  If you exhibit any symptoms of depression, seek medical help as soon as possible. Depression doesn't get better on its own. For more information, continue reading to learn about treatments for depression now. 

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