Just because depression isn’t easy to diagnose doesn’t mean it can’t be.
Diagnosing depression can be a daunting task and is usually left to trained health professionals. To come up with a conclusive diagnosis, the two steps that the professionals do are:
1. Interviewing the patient
To truly understand what someone is going through, you have to first talk to them. Such a session usually involves the doctor asking a spread of questions about how a patient is feeling and whether there is a history of mental health issues in his or her family. Another thing that the doctor will be keen to note is the duration for which a patient has had their symptoms. Some of the symptoms that doctors look out for include:
- Persistent sadness that lasts every day or most of the day
- Lack of enjoyment in the things that formerly brought joy
- Daily fatigue
- Insomnia or excess sleep
- Major weight gain or loss
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Suicidal thoughts
To confirm your depression, you need to have exhibited at least five of the above symptoms. For a doctor to get a clear diagnosis, there are several types of questionnaires that a doctor can use. These include:
- Beck Depression Inventory (BDI): This is a survey that has 21 multi-choice questions designed to measure the severity of depression symptoms.
- Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D): This tool allows patients to compare their feelings and outlooks with those of the previous week
- Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD): This multi-choice questionnaire is used by doctors to rate the severity of someone’s depression.
- The Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9): As its name suggests, this is a 9-item screening tool. It is self-administered and applies the current diagnostic criteria for major depression.
- Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale: This short survey is an effective tool for measuring the severity of depression
As much as these tools are popular and highly effective, your doctor may choose to go with another tool entirely.
2. Performing a physical examination and tests
As a way to rule out physical illness as a cause of your symptoms, a doctor will further perform a physical examination and lab tests. The physical exam usually concentrates on the neurological and endocrine systems and will rule out any diseases or conditions associated with depression. These include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, syphilis, multiple sclerosis, head trauma and Cushing’s disease.
On the other hand, lab tests are helpful in ruling out things like anaemia, vitamin D deficiency and even tumours. Once the doctor can rule out any preexisting conditions, they can zero down on the cause of your depression.
The Bottom Line
Diagnosing depression can be very tricky. However, with the right resources and expertise, it can be done.