Depression Tests & Diagnosis

Published: February 5, 2012

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Assessment

A general practitioner, psychiatrist, or psychologist can diagnose you with depression by administering a series of questionnaires and tests. First, your clinician will collect information about your personal and family health history in order to determine whether you are at risk for inheritable mood disorders. Statistically speaking, people are more likely to suffer from depression when certain mental health conditions run in the family.

After collecting your background information, the doctor will ask you a series of questions about your mood and lifestyle. You might encounter questions about your personal relationships, professional satisfaction, exercise habits, and overall quality of life. A clinician will try to see whether there are any patterns of anger, sadness, and feelings of hopelessness in what you communicate about your life.

The doctor will ask you personal questions that might be difficult to address or answer. It is important that you talk to your doctor openly and honestly so that you can receive the right treatment and start to feel better. By law, your doctor needs to keep your patient records confidential unless certain crimes have occurred or unless you are in immediate danger to yourself or others.

Blood Tests

Typically, a doctor will conduct a blood test to check for other possible conditions that cause or resume depression. These tests will help rule out hypothyroidism, infections, metabolic problems, and low testosterone levels.

A number of conditions cause symptoms of depression, especially fatigue. It is important that you determine, treat, and rule out these underlying causes as soon as possible. If you do not identify the correct causes for your symptoms, you will not be able to relieve your depression. If you hide your symptoms, your underlying condition could become very serious, very quickly.

Cognitive Testing

A series of tests including a CT scan and MRI can help detect physical abnormalities in the brain including tumors and certain degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. Problems in the brain can be scary, but many are curable and possible to treat with routine medication and treatment. In most situations, a doctor will perform cognitive tests as a precautionary measure.

Specialists & General Practitioners

Many patients report that they are able to receive the most accurate diagnosis with a psychiatric specialist who has a background and training in treating mood disorders. Many general practitioners over-diagnose and under-diagnose depression, meaning that people who do not have depression are receiving unecessary treatment, and people who do not have depression are not receiving treatment. A specialist is recommended for the most accurate diagnosis possible.

Follow-up Care

The doctor who diagnoses you may continue to work with you if she or he feels confident enough to treat your condition. If you need counseling sessions, the doctor may refer to you a specialist who is familiar with similar cases. Follow-up care can take years or weeks. Especially after diagnosis, it is important that you pursue care as instructed.

When to Talk to a Doctor

Call a doctor, 911, or suicide hotline if you are thinking of suicide, no matter how serious your intent or plan. You should also talk to someone if you are planning to hurt yourself or others. Call a doctor if you have been depressed for more than two weeks or if you are hallucinating voices. If you believe that your medication is causing depression, make sure that you consult a doctor before changing or stopping doses.

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