Clinical Depression Test and Diagnosis
By: Sarah Fader
Updated November 20, 2020
Everyone has bad days. Everyone has the blues. Some attest that their periods of melancholy help to fuel their creativity, or at the very least, help them appreciate the finer moments of life. Isn’t life a balance between the highs and lows?
It's understandable then why family members, friends, and authority figures may try to dismiss symptoms of depression as merely something to be tolerated. Perhaps it’s seen as just a "challenge" that we all must personally overcome.
But if you suffer from intense periods of depression, or your depressive episodes seem to get harder to see the end of, it could be time to try counseling or medication. Choosing a plan to ease your pain and distress can make you feel empowered and less hopeless about your situation.
You can begin by reviewing this sample depression test and seeing if anything resonates with you.
A Sample Depression Questionnaire
- How often do you feel depressed? Several times a week or every day?
- Do you feel frequent episodes of hopelessness and/or that life is meaningless?
- Are you frequently angry at yourself and feel as if you're a failure, haven't achieved anything, or are useless?
- Do you often lose interest in doing things you used to enjoy?
- Are you isolating yourself from others?
- Do your friends or family members tell you you're short-tempered or irritable lately?
- Do you feel anxious, particularly about social interactions?
- Do you feel unusually tired throughout the day?
- Are you experiencing insomnia or unusual sleeping habits?
- Have your eating habits changed, or have you gained or lost a lot of weight?
- Do you engage in reckless behavior, particularly behavior that seems out of character?
- Are you plagued with anti-social thoughts, especially suicidal fantasies or rationalizations?
- Do you only feel happy or at peace when drinking alcohol, smoking pot, etc.?
If you answered "often" or a "yes" to a majority of these questions, a doctor might work with you and reach a diagnosis on the scale of clinical depression. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.
The National Institute of Mental Health explains that in order to receive a diagnosis of depression, your symptoms must be present most of the day for most of the days in a two week period. These symptoms, captured in the test’s questions, affect how you think, behave, and feel.
While it's up to the doctor to make a medical diagnosis, most people who report these symptoms are experiencing an uncomfortable amount of pain and distress. A doctor will likely spend more time with you determining the larger scope of your feelings and behaviors. They might ask questions like these:
Do you feel major depression a majority of the time?
Are you experiencing irrational or suicidal thoughts?
Are you putting yourself or others at risk with reckless behavior?
Could the depression be connected to any physical illnesses, or paired with other mental disorders?
Your doctor may advise you to improve other areas of your well-being like your diet, exercise patterns, sleep habits, creative outlets and positive social interactions.
However, it’s possible that improving those areas of your life also feels impossible at the moment. You may also realize you are doing all those things and still feeling depressed. Medication and/or talk therapy might be suitable paths forward. Your doctor can refer you to a psychiatrist, who may recommend medication and therapy as a treatment plan.
Diagnosing Depression Throughout History
From the time of Ancient Greece and the writings of Aristotle, depression or "melancholy" was frequently associated with the "brilliance" of male scholars. It was theorized that creative thought naturally led to such existential suffering. In more recent history, depression was often associated and therefore dismissed with female “hysteria.”
Throughout history, depression’s causes and cures have been theorized about. This should be proof that depression isn’t just a small problem or something you have to accept. Scholars and doctors around the world throughout time have been hunting for deeper understanding to better help people.
It’s been a trend to relate depression to performance. By focusing on how depression is affecting someone’s career instead of their personal wellbeing, we are devaluing the individual. In current practice, it is standard to view the individual’s well-being and fulfillment as paramount. Doctors can work with you to find a treatment plan that suits you. That can look like antidepressants, a nutritionist, a therapist, a rehabilitation program, and many other options.
Is It A Chemical Imbalance Or Just Unfavorable Circumstances?
Sometimes our life circumstances can pose such significant challenges in our lives that we feel depressed. Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one, a beloved pet, an important job, or a key relationship. Oftentimes, in the healing process, you may experience depression. Even if you know it is tied to something specific in your life circumstances, there is still help available.
You may also find yourself feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed in your usual circumstances. You may realize you can’t cope anymore even though nothing has really changed. Or maybe you’ve been stuck in the dumps since a negative experience and can’t find the way up and out. There are tools available to you through talk therapy that will help you change the way you deal with those negative feelings. Those often include recognizing negative thought patterns or behavioral habits and challenging them. You and your therapist can work together to both heal the wound at the center and move forward today and tomorrow with courage.
Factors Of Depression
As your doctor leads you through a depression test, a doctor may try and trace the start of your depression with a life event. For example: statistically, women tend to feel depressed more often than men because of hormone fluctuations. Particularly after pregnancy, after a miscarriage, after childbirth or during menopause, depression can spike.
Men can experience their own version of "andropause," an aging process involving the lower production of testosterone, which leads to more volatile and negative emotions. Doctors may also try to determine if your depression may be age-related, since most depression tests and diagnoses occur during the ages of 25 to 45.
Your doctor will want to get a broad understanding of your health before they move forward with you on a treatment plan to see if there is anything compounding your symptoms. These circumstances can include:
Alcoholism or drug abuse
A history of child abuse (particularly unresolved feelings stemming from the past or even a forgotten experience)
Family history of depression
Chronic stress from family events
Side effects of certain medications
A major life event (sometimes a positive life event)
Chronic or terminal illness
Undiagnosed mental disorders (bipolar, borderline, anxiety, etc.)
The Question Is Not "If" But "How"
It is always up to you if you prefer to move forward with medication. Medication is usually prescribed in order to combat physical ailments or severe mental problems. It is also often prescribed in conjunction to therapy.
If you feel you can cope with your symptoms of depression, you can always choose to do so on your own or with your own support network. A clinical depression test merely helps you determine how mild or severe your symptoms are.
If you feel as if your depression or anxiety is limiting your life and compromising your work, your family life or your general happiness, then you may feel it's time to seek psychiatric treatment or regular counseling.
What To Expect From A Medical Test For Depression
The idea of confessing an experience with depression and asking a doctor for help can be intimidating to some people. That intimidation can particularly affect men, who statistically conceal their depression more so than women. It may help to consider what a clinical depression test is for, what to expect from an exam, and what to expect from the counselor to whom you are referred.
A medical doctor typically refers you to a specialist after determining there are no physical factors at play in your depression that should be addressed immediately. A physical examination and lab work can rule out diseases/conditions like:
Thyroid disease (underactive or overactive thyroid gland)
Adrenal gland disorder (Cushing's disease)
Nervous system diseases
Side effects of other medications
Blood tests can reveal these factors. Your doctor will also likely check your kidney, liver, and electrolytes, since these directly affect your body's ability to absorb and eliminate medication you may be prescribed.
Questionnaire tests may focus on the severity of your depression or may help you to evaluate your feelings. Some questions can feel personal, but it’s important to be candid with your doctor since your answers can reveal a great deal about what you're experiencing.
The Types of Depression
A doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist where you can focus on what type of depression you're dealing with. This will help narrow down what kind of treatment plan will work best for you.
The clinical test your doctor leads you through can be combined with a specialist’s efforts to determine which type of depression you are experiencing. This can influence what type of treatments are more likely to help.
Persistent Depressive Disorder: This is where you experience major depression with occasional periods of alleviation and peace, but the condition persists in the long-term.
Perinatal Depression: This affects women after childbirth and exceeds the severity of postpartum depression. It makes daily motherhood activities feel very difficult or impossible.
Psychotic Depression: This is depression plus symptoms of psychosis, which is when you break from reality. This can include delusions, paranoia, or hallucinations.
Bipolar Disorder: This is characterized by extreme highs and lows, considered euphoria and "mania," in addition to more severe depressive episodes
Seasonal Affective Disorder: This a kind of depression brought on by seasonal changes.
Treatment Really Works
According to the National Institute of Health, 80 percent of individuals treated for depression show improvement within four to six weeks. The most successful treatment included a combination of medication, therapy, and the possibility of group therapy.
Treating depression and its symptoms is not a quick fix for anyone. Treatment plans that include multiple methodologies like professional help, personal changes, and medication (when prescribed by your physician) can best ease your symptoms.
You can seek professional help and find a way to control or lessen the severity of your depression symptoms. It is possible to completely ease your symptoms and manage them.
You can begin your journey by talking with a licensed online counselor today. They can help to evaluate your symptoms through an online depression evaluation. A licensed counselor can recommend whether your next step should be seeking a doctor's medical opinion, or if non-medical alternatives might lessen the symptoms.
A meta-study has found has found that internet-based treatment plans for depression have promise to be evidence-based treatment paths, like in-person therapy. As internet treatment evolves to best help patients, more and more people are turning online for help. Seeking online counseling as the first step or one of your steps to feel better can be a convenient, comfortable option.
If you are dealing with severe symptoms of depression, it can be challenging to find the energy or motivation to seek help. By turning to BetterHelp, you can begin talking to a counselor quickly and easily. You’ll be able to choose a communication method that works for you. You can speak over the phone, via video chat, or online messaging. You can receive help exactly where you are, bypassing the need for extensive planning or even leaving the house. BetterHelp’s counselors are trained, licensed professionals who can help you determine your course of action. They’ll be able to see your symptoms objectively and advise you.
Hear from some of BetterHelp’s users who have benefited from our counselors in treating their depression:
“I worked with Sarah for some months last year, while struggling a lot with depression, relationship issues and my self esteem. It was a really difficult time in my life, but I must say that Sarah really helped me a lot. From before I had some bad experiences with therapists, feeling that they didn’t really see me and understand what I needed help with, but with Sarah it was soooo different! From the very first session I felt like she got me, knew what I needed and that she managed to see the connection between my issues and my background. Working with her truly helped me a lot with moving out of my depression, battling the issues in my relationships and maybe most importantly, getting my self esteem back and truly loving myself. I’d absolutely recommend Sarah, and I’d most definitely trust her again if life gives me lemons again!”
“I have had chronic mild depression my whole 50 year life. Been to therapy, once long term, several other attempts where I did not connect, including a couple on BetterHelp, but made minimal progress. Laura is the first person who I felt has been able to zero in on the root problem and offer a path to recovery, and for the first time I am cautiously optimistic that with her help she can prod me and work with me to finally achieve happiness”
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