Are you feeling down and unmotivated to do activities that you once enjoyed? Do seek solace in sleep? Do you find yourself down and sad without apparent reason? Do you have extreme feelings of hopelessness and unworthiness? Do you neglect your health and self-care routines? If you have experienced these, then it might be best to seek professional help. These symptoms are common in depression but may also be caused by other pathologic disorder.
World Health Organization defines depression as a common mental disorder characterized by persistent sadness and loss of interest in activities that one usually enjoys, accompanied by the inability to carry out daily activities for at least two weeks.
Physical Exam & Other Testing Methods
Upon seeking expert’s advice on depression, keep in mind that no one test would make depression as a conclusive diagnosis. It will require series of test and exams. Most physicians would usually rule out other serious medical diseases that may have similar presentations as that of depression. Examples of these are thyroid disease and Vitamin D deficiency. First and foremost, the doctor will perform a physical exam with the primary focus on the neurological and endocrine systems. In hypothyroidism, the thyroid glands are underactive which is manifested by irritability, weight gain, cold intolerance and depressive symptoms. Also, many central nervous system disorder and injuries can result in depression. Conditions associated with depression are central nervous system tumors, head trauma, stroke, syphilis and various cancers. Corticosteroid medication such as prednisone usually taken by individuals with asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus is also a possible culprit for the depression. Similarly, withdrawal from drugs like amphetamines, over the counter appetite suppressants and illegal steroids may cause depressive withdrawal symptoms. MRI and CT scan of the brain might be performed to rule out brain tumors.
“The correct identification of depression during the assessment phase is a critical issue. In general, the quality of the clinical evaluation is always fundamental for diagnosis and treatment. An incorrect psychological assessment may result in patients’ dissatisfaction and suffering,” Marta Ghisi, Ph.D. and co-authors explain.
Depression Screening Tests
The doctor will probe and ask questions about your mood and how it affects your life. He/she will also inquire about your regular routines, hobbies, and interests as well as your coping mechanism, problems, frustration and core values. There would be specific questionnaires and testing tools that the doctor will utilize to diagnose depression, and it also aids the physician in generating better insight of your mood and condition. Answer as truthfully as you can and be willing to share without a filter. Examples of the diagnostic screening instruments:
- The Patient Health Questionnaire– 9 item self-administered diagnostic screening and severity tool based on the latest diagnostic criteria for major depression. According to Kurt Kroenke, MD and collaborators, “The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) is a self-administered version of the PRIME-MD diagnostic instrument for common mental disorders.”
- Beck Depression Inventory– 21-multiple choice question self- report that provides a measurement of the severity of depression symptoms and feelings. “The Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) is widely used as a screening instrument for depressive symptomatology in clinical settings,” Glen A. Palmer, PhD, ABN and co-authors wrote.
- Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale– a brief survey that gauges the level of depression varying from normal to severely depressed.
- Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale– an instrument provides the patient a tool to evaluate their feelings, behaviors, and outlook from the previous week.
- Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression– a multiple choice test that clinicians use to rate the severity of depression.
Diagnosis of Depression
If your hunch is confirmed and it turns out that you have depression. Keep in mind that depression is a treatable and manageable illness. Receiving a medical confirmation that something is wrong with you is the first crucial step in getting better. Stick with the treatment program and make the necessary lifestyle modifications to get rid of the blues.