It is highly recommended that the doctors perform routine screens on all individuals for signs of depression. This can be done during a visit for a chronic illness or a simple annual check-up, but also when patients visit the doctor’s office for things such as a pregnancy or postpartum check-up.
In order to effectively diagnose and choose on how to treat depression, a doctor must get fully informed on the symptoms of depression. There are series of standard questions used to screen for signs of depression.
A physical depression test can reveal the overall state of the patient’s health, but talking with the patient is the key factor to learning why depression occurred and find the proper way of treating the patient. Some patients don’t show any of the commonly known symptoms like daily moods, lifestyle habits and behaviors.
Mental health professionals are careful with evaluating people for depression. So, if you are asking yourself questions like ‘am I depressed’ or ‘do I have depression’, make sure to consult a doctor for a professional diagnosis and advice.
It takes more than a simple feeling of sadness in order for the doctor to diagnose you with depression. The job of the experts is to gather all necessary information about the patient before determining the depression diagnosis.
These can include medical evaluation, clinical interview and certain additional assessments. Based on these, the doctor should be able to evaluate whether you have confirmed symptoms of depression.
In order to decide on the right treatment for depression, the doctors must use specialized blood or other extensive laboratory tests. These are used to help the doctors make a conclusive diagnosis and choose a proper treatment.
There are some laboratory tests that do not result in being very helpful in diagnosing depression. One of the most important diagnostic tools when it comes to depression is actually the conversations with the patient.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the symptoms of depression fall into four categories:
- Affective or mood symptoms
These symptoms include feelings of guilt, worthlessness and depressed mood.
- Behavioral symptoms
Behavioral symptoms include agitation and social withdrawal.
- Cognitive symptoms
Also referred to as problems in thinking, cognitive symptoms include difficulty with making decisions and with concentrating.
- Somatic symptoms
Somatic symptoms are also called physical symptoms. These include insomnia and hypersomnia. Hypersomnia is a condition when one sleeps too much.
The above mentioned manual is used as a tool for making depression diagnosis by mental health professionals. Additionally, this tool is commonly used as a communicating guide when it comes to conversing with other medical professionals. This manual is used for sharing opinions and conceptualizations of aspects of this illness. In this way, experts can reach consensus on which symptoms fit in which disorder diagnosis.
The depressive disorders are mainly grouped in categories. These include:
- Major depressive disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Dysthymic disorder
- Substance-induced mood disorder
- Cyclothymic disorder
- Mood disorder due to a general medical condition
Additionally, there are two other subdisorders and those are seasonal affective disorder and postpartum depression. When treating a patient that complaints of depressive symptoms, doctors use specific criteria for determining the right depression diagnosis.
Once all tests are performed and a diagnosis is set, specifiers are used to give more detailed information about the diagnosis. These are used by the mental health professionals in being able to have information about the patient’s condition at reach. This in term, helps them determine the most effective treatment and help in the process of predicting of the course of the disease.
Therefore, when a person is diagnosed with a disease, specifiers are used to determine the severity of the symptoms, their frequencies and further instructions on treatment. Generally, all diagnoses look alike but no two people experience exactly the same depressive symptoms.
Therefore, specifiers are used to clear up and improve the diagnosis and symptoms analysis:
Used for only few symptoms present, in cases where the patient can function normally with some extra effort.
The symptoms are somewhere in the middle between severe and mild.
- Severe with psychotic features
This specific is set when a person experiences delusions and hallucinations. Researchers have shown that up to 15% of people with major depressive disorder may develop psychoses at a certain point. The presence of these hallucinations can interfere with their ability to function and make sound judgments. These symptoms are serious and require immediate medical attention. In some cases, hospitalization may be needed.
- Severe without psychotic features
These symptoms are present when the person has no ability to function or little ability. When a manic episode occurs, this patient needs to be put under supervision in order to avoid harm to them or to others.
- Single Episode
The first depression episode is considered to be single episode
- Recurrent episodes
Every subsequent episode after the first one is considered to be recurrent.
- Full remission
Full remission occurs when there is a case with absence of symptoms for duration of a minimum of 2 months.
- Partial remission
Partial remission happens when there are no depressive episodes met, but the period of 2 months has not passed just yet.
Chronic depression is diagnosed when the criteria for the patient’s major depressive episodes based on the symptoms is met for at least two years.
- Catatonic features include unusual movements or behaviors (excessive purposeless activity, immobility, mimicking words and behaviors from others and rigid posturing)
- Atypical features include substantial weight or appetite gain, sleeping too much, persistent sensitivity to rejection.
- Melancholic features include a loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities, inability to improve the mood, worsening of the mood in the morning, waking up early, slowed movements, substantial weight loss and feelings of guilt.
- Seasonal pattern
A pattern of episodes in major depression or bipolar disorder. These happen at particular times of the year.
- Postpartum onset
Postpartum onset is diagnosed when the episodes start within the first four weeks of giving birth to a baby.
Rapid cycling is diagnosed when a person has recurring episodes that reach a minimum of 4 in the last 12 months.
Depression is not an easy thing to go through. Despite the fact that there is no cure, treatment can really help in fighting this disease. The most important thing to do is help the medical experts diagnose you properly and provide you with the best treatment possible. You can do this by providing them with all necessary information about your symptoms and taking the treatment seriously.