Before now, every mood disorder was usually lumped together in one category. But now, doctors can distinguish between different disorders and diagnose the particular mood disorder a person has. Even subtypes of disorders can be diagnosed.
This is why during a diagnosis of depression, a doctor can figure out the exact type of depression the patient has. Talking to a doctor when you feel depressed can be a hard task. You might feel isolated and/or embarrassed. But the thing is, if you don’t seek medical attention, your condition may not go away.
Therefore, you need to see a doctor once you start noticing symptoms. You could start by talking to your primary health care provider. We know how big this step is for you. This is why we are here to walk you through what to expect during the diagnosis.
How Diagnosis is made
For several conditions, doctors often use blood tests and/or several other lab tests when diagnosing patients. However, for depression, these lab tests may not exactly be helpful.
In this case, a doctor’s most vital diagnostic tool is talking with their patient. Doctors often routinely screen all their patients for depression. The screening usually takes place when a person visits a medical facility, whether for a routine visit, chronic disease visit, or even a pregnancy visit.
For diagnoses to be made, the doctor has to hear the specific depression symptoms. They often ask several standard questions during the screening. For example, the patient may report things like lifestyle habits, behaviors, and daily moods during the screening.
Diagnosing depression is sometimes difficult because this condition can manifest in several ways. For instance, some persons may withdraw and become indifferent when they have this condition. Others may be agitated or irritable. Some may have exaggerated sleeping and eating patterns; they may either eat or sleep more than they used to, or not do these activities at all.
However, the doctor can figure out if the patient has these symptoms just by talking to them and asking some standard questions.
What Health Care Providers Look for When Making Depression Diagnosis
Doctors often carry out lab tests, personal interviews, and physical examinations to rule out conditions that might be the cause of depression.
A diagnostic evaluation will also be done; here, your family history of the condition and even other mental disorders will be discussed.
Then, your symptoms and how long you have had them will be evaluated. You’d also be asked how you feel, and if you’ve any symptoms like:
- Feeling depressed or sad mood most days or almost daily
- Losing enjoyment or interest in things you used to find entertaining and pleasurable
- Major appetite or weight change (either weight loss or gain over 5 percent within one month)
- Physical restlessness
- Excessive sleep or insomnia
- Constantly thinking of suicide or death. Suicide attempt or suicide plan
- Fatigue most of the day
- Feeling worthless, excessive guilt, or hopelessness almost every time
Depression Symptoms and Diagnosis
Before a person is concluded to have major depression, the person must have a minimum of 5 of the above-listed symptoms. They must also experience 1 of the initial 2 symptoms almost every day for about 2 weeks.
These symptoms may last for some weeks or months. Sometimes, it can even last for years. They often affect the person’s personality, interfere with their work habits and social relationships, and sometimes, even make it hard for people to feel empathy for them. Sometimes, the symptom may be so bad that they may significantly interfere with how you function.
Lab Tests and Depression Diagnosis
Once the information gathered (including the symptoms, signs, physical exam, patient history, and family history) is reviewed, your doctor might ask for certain laboratory tests to be done. These tests are usually done so that other physical illnesses that could be the cause of the symptoms can be ruled out.
Sometimes, some vitamin or hormonal deficiencies, medicines, and viruses may result in depression-like signs. Your doctor may also review the medications and even recreational drugs and alcohol you might be using. This is because recreational drugs and alcohol most times affect people’s behavior and health and may induce depression-like symptoms.
Ways to Help Your Doctor Make an Accurate Diagnosis
You can ensure your doctor’s diagnosis is proper and accurate by writing down the concerns and symptoms you have before the appointment. Another helpful thing you can do is find out your family history as it concerns this condition prior to your appointment.
Having this information will help your doctor’s diagnosis to be more accurate. Ultimately, this will ensure you get effective treatment. So, before you visit the medical facility, think about the following and if possible, write them down:
- Your physical and mental health concerns
- Past illnesses
- Family history of this condition
- Unusual behaviors you have
- Symptoms you have noticed
- Medications you are currently taking or those you’ve taken before. The list should contain both over-the-counter and prescribed medications
- Lifestyle habits including drug use, alcohol consumption, smoking diet, and exercise
- Things that cause stress for you like your social life, work, or marriage
- Sleep habits
The biggest obstacle to overcome when dealing with depression is acknowledging that you have it. Once you’ve recognized this and sought help, getting diagnosed and subsequently getting treated won’t be difficult. At this point, your doctor will ask you some questions and review the data gathered to diagnose whether or not you have this condition.