Clinical Depression Test and Diagnosis
By Sarah Fader
Updated February 25, 2020
Everyone has bad days. Everyone has the blues. Some say that periods of melancholy help to fuel creativity, or at the very least, help people to appreciate the finer moments of life. Without feeling the blunt of true emotional pain, how would we know what happiness feels like?
It's understandable then why family members, friends, and authority figures may try to dismiss symptoms of depression as merely a burden that everyone carries; perhaps even a "challenge" that we all must personally overcome.
Of course, the solutions are the same-better diet, exercise, fellowship with a wider network of friends and family, and the power of positive thinking.
But if you suffer from intense periods of depression, and they seem to be getting worse with every passing year, you may be at a point where you're asking yourself if you should try medication and counseling, or if it would be easier to keep living with the symptoms.
Review this sample depression test and ask yourself some basic questions.
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?
- 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 seem happy or at peace when drinking alcohol, smoking pot, etc.?
If you answered "often" or a "yes" the majority of these questions, a doctor might tell you that you have clinical depression. That's what it sounds like to a person living "outside" your thoughts.
While it's up to the doctor to make a medical diagnosis, most clinically depressed patients do report similar symptoms. However, if you go to see a doctor, he or she is mostly interested in determining these questions:
Does the person claim to feel major depression majority of the time?
Is the person experiencing irrational or suicidal thoughts?
Is the person putting himself or others at risk with reckless behavior?
Can the depression be connected to any physical illnesses, or paired with other mental disorders?
So in cases where you have to ask your doctor if your depression is a problem or not, and where there are no physical signs of illness, he or she will usually guide you to more gentle answers:
Get in shape
Do what you love
Express yourself more often
And socialize with people you like
However, if you are telling your doctor that you cannot live with the depression, or that the condition is robbing you of joy, then it's likely that you and the doctor will both see a chemical imbalance as the root cause of the problem. He or she will probably refer you to a psychiatrist, who will recommend medication and therapy as a treatment plan.
Diagnosing Depression Throughout History
It's interesting to note that from the time of Ancient Greece and the writings of Aristotle, depression or "melancholy" was frequently associated with the "brilliance" of male scholars as if creative thought naturally led to such existential suffering. In later times, particularly on the day of the early, sexist medical industry, depression was associated with female hysteria.
Naturally, in early civilization, depression was linked with demonic torment, while Hippocrates, an early Greek physician, wrote that mental illness resulted from imbalanced bodily fluids called "Humours." Even back then, our great ancestors were trying to find a logical reason for something inherently illogical.
What we observe from history is that depression was often viewed in industrious terms; or in simpler words, "How is the Depression affecting this person's career? Their prominence…their contribution to society?"
Even back then, the reactions to depression from the overall population were familiar. They either told you:
You're not sleeping right!
You're not eating right!
You're not exercising!
You ought to get married!
And so on.
Worse yet, in the worst days early of medical abuses, they might have a depressed person committed to an insane asylum or be treated like a hopeless derelict on the street.
Only in modern and more scientifically-governed society, have we found a way to cope with depression logically. In a psychiatric facility, the doctor addresses the chemical imbalance with medication and therapy. In a mental facility, our attitudes are challenged and we re-learn coping mechanisms to deal with the depression.
Is It a Chemical Imbalance or Just Unfavorable Circumstances?
Our instinct is usually to believe that "Life sucks!" and that's why we're depressed. After all, the world can be a scary place. People can be cruel. Our dreams sometimes feel so "out of reach" that we begin to wonder if we'll ever accomplish anything.
The problem is that life will never cease to have unfavorable circumstances. No person has "perfect circumstances," not even the luckiest or the richest person on the planet!
What usually happens is that a person starts comparing himself/herself to others and wonders why their personal journey has been so difficult. Obviously, there is no logical answer to "Why do I have so much stress, and why does He/She seem to have a perfect life?"
But here's the answer we all need to hear.
If you feel that you cannot cope with your life the way it is, you must change the way you deal with stress, anxiety, and depressive thoughts. You cannot demand that Life should change for you. We must alter the way our minds works, whether through medication, or behavioral therapy, or a combination of both.
When undergoing a depression test, you will notice that doctors may try to link your depression with a very particular life event. For example, statistically speaking, women tend to feel depressed more often than men because of hormone fluctuations-and particularly after pregnancy, after a miscarriage, after childbirth or during menopause.
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.
The primary reason a doctor will want to do medical examinations before recommending a psychiatrist or therapist is that because depression statistically occurs with other physical or mental conditions such as:
Alcoholism or drug abuse
A history of child abuse (particularly unresolved feelings stemming from the past or even forgotten episode)
Family history of depression
Chronic stress from family events (which may be resolved by changing one's social activities)
Side effects of certain medications
A major life event (sometimes even a really good and positive life event)
Chronic or terminal illness
Undiagnosed mental disorders (bipolar, borderline, anxiety, etc.)
The Question is Not "IF" But "How"
The question of whether you need medication to cope with major depression is one you must answer and one you probably already have answered. Most doctors will not tell you that you need to be on medication if you have no desire to do so. Medication is almost always the last resort-and usually prescribed in order to combat physical ailments or severe mental problems.
If you feel you can live with the symptoms of depression, even if you do have severe bouts of melancholy, then you can opt to do so. A major depression test merely helps you determine if you are unhappy most of the time and if you think the bouts are getting worse.
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 a problem with depression and asking a doctor for help can be intimidating to some people, and particularly to men who statistically conceal their depression more so than women. It may help you to consider what a medical doctor 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 ruling out physical ailments or diseases that could be causing the depression. 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 problems. Also, the doctor will also want to check your kidney, liver, and electrolytes, since these will directly affect the body's ability to absorb and eliminate medication you may be prescribed.
The reason a doctor may ask you personal questions related to your feelings and thought processes is so he/she can determine if you do NOT have depression. Because if you doubt you do have major depression, or feel as if maybe you can deal with the occasional blues by a lifestyle change, the doctor has to go back to the beginning to see if anything was missed or if something else could be wrong.
Questionnaire tests may focus on the severity of your depression or may help you to evaluate your feelings. Don't be alarmed if some questions are personal-such as sexual problems-since a total lack of interest in sex tends to suggest major depression. It's important to be candid with a doctor during this questioning since your answers can reveal a great deal about what kind of depression you're dealing with.
There Are Types of Depression?
A doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist and if that happens, the focus will be on what type of depression you're suffering from and what kind of solution might work best for your particular circumstances.
An article at The Guardian presented a balanced perspective to the endless psychiatry vs. psychology debate. There is no reason to recommend "Either / Or." For some conditions, particularly obsessive-compulsive behavior, medication without therapy can work. For example, studies found that lithium reduced the total number of hospitalizations and suicides stemming from bipolar disorder. However, other conditions such as PTSD, or even schizophrenia, improve when both medication and psychotherapy are used in combination.
Therefore, it is always advisable that you speak to a doctor and get the referral that he/she thinks is best suited for your depression-type. Therapy alone might not be enough. Medication alone might not be enough. It is the reason why we trust medical professionals not merely to prescribe a drug, but to guide us towards the path to recovery.
Yes, in case you're wondering, there are "types of depression" and tests can help mental health specialists determine which type you suffer from, and thus what treatment program is more likely to help.
For example, there is:
Persistent Depressive Disorder: Which is major depression, with occasional periods of peace, but that persists for the long-term.
Perinatal Depression: Affects women after childbirth and exceeds postpartum depression, and makes daily motherhood activities very difficult or impossible
Psychotic Depression: Depression plus symptoms of psychosis, including delusions, paranoia, or even hallucinations
Bipolar Disorder: Extreme highs and lows, euphoria and "mania," in addition to more severe depressive episodes
Seasonal Affective Disorder: Depression brought on by seasonal changes; this type of depression may need to be explained to the patient, perhaps even to lessen or do without medication, if possible
Treatment Really Works - By the Numbers
While it may seem self-serving for the medical community to say diagnosis and treatment "really works," it is the statistics that back up such claims.
According to the National Institute of Health, 80 percent of individuals treated for depression show improvement within four to six weeks. The most success treatment included a combination of medication, therapy, and continuing support group therapy.
It's not a quick fix of drugs or just a therapy session with self-medicating practices from the patient. It is an aggressive methodology of using all available resources, professional and personal, to confront the problem.
Lastly, remember that the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance states that fifty percent of all failed rehabilitation results from patients ignoring the advice of doctors. They either stop taking medication, stop attending therapy, or perhaps isolate themselves from support groups. Support group participants, for example, were found to be 86 percent more willing to take their medication as instructed than patients who left support group therapy too early.
What we can learn about depression test from these statistics and studies is that the choice, to suffer or to cope, is always our own.
You can seek professional help and find a way to control or lessen the severity of the depression, sometimes eliminating the long bouts completely. Or you can ignore the problem until the episodes become more intolerable and start to affect multiple aspects of your life, taking away happiness bit by bit.
For the best results, we plead with anyone suffering from consistent depression to seek a professional consultation, starting with a certified and licensed online counselor. They can help to evaluate the symptoms and give you an online depression test. This depression test will help you determine where you are and how severe the symptoms might be.
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 depression. You never really know what it is you have, until you let trained professionals help you uncover the answer.
There are always alternatives to suffering. Allow yourself to heal and let others take you by the hand, walking you to the safe place you need to be-that precious peace of mind that keeps us motivated and living happily ever after.