The American Psychiatric Association states that one in six people experience depression at some point in their life. However, the majority of these individuals never seek help for their depressive symptoms and mental health issues. To get better and improve the quality of life, it is imperative to find out how to get tested for depression. Only when a mental health professional correctly diagnoses you can you start receiving treatment. 

Before the particulars of tests for depression, you should know that there is no one standardized depression test that will confirm or deny whether you are suffering from this mood disorder. Diagnosing depression is not exactly straightforward – medical professionals rely on several tests and procedures that help them determine the nature of your mental disorder. 

The most important diagnostic tool at their disposal is a conversation. 

Personal Interview

To start your journey of getting diagnosed and treated for depression, you don’t necessarily have to find a mental health specialist right away. Your primary care doctor, a general physician, can also perform a preliminary assessment. They will then recommend further diagnostic measures or appointments with specialists. 

The primary method for discovering depression symptoms is talking to a patient. Your doctor may ask about any apparent changes in behavior – if you have become more irritable, restless, or perhaps apathetic recently. They’re looking for changes in sleeping patterns and eating habits. Fatigue and prolonged periods of low energy may also be a sign of this mental health disorder. 

During the interview process, it is vital to be as open and honest as possible. Answer your doctor’s questions truthfully. Remember that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Depression is an illness just like any other – it is not your fault that you’re suffering from it, nor can you simply “pull yourself together.” Depression requires methodical treatment over a long period of time and under the supervision of a qualified professional.

Based on your answers, your doctor will determine the type of depression you’re experiencing (major depression, postpartum depression, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, or other) and offer a suitable treatment protocol. 

Screening Scales

Medical professionals may use different depression screening instruments or scales to measure the severity of depression symptoms. Here are some examples of these scales: 

  • Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) – a self-assessment that consists of twenty-one multiple-choice questions. It measures the severity of depression, feelings, and symptoms.
  • Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D) – a tool that enables potentially depressed patients to evaluate their behavior, feelings, and general attitudes in the past week.
  • Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD, HDRS, or HAM-D) – a series of multiple-choice questions.
  • The Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) – a tool containing nine items (questions) used to diagnose and assess the major depressive disorder severity.. 
  • Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale – a short survey for measuring the level of depression, from normal to severely depressed. 

Just like in the case of talking to a doctor, a depression quiz, screening test, or scale will also be asking questions about your moods, physical symptoms, and sensitive topics such as sexual activity. It may get uncomfortable, but keep in mind that the doctors and specialists are there to help you. Honesty is crucial when undergoing depression screening.

Physical Exam

People often get confused when their doctors perform a physical exam during a screening for a depressive disorder. If it is a mental illness, then why does it matter how healthy you are physically?

Several physical illnesses may cause symptoms of depression. They include hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland), Cushing’s disease (malfunction of the adrenal gland), tumors of the central nervous system, multiple sclerosis, and others. Your depression may be a sign of a severe physical condition, and a physical exam will rule these out. 

If a physical illness is discovered as the cause of depression, treating it will usually help with depression.

Furthermore, depression may occur as a side effect of taking some medication. The most common ones are corticosteroids that some people take for asthma or rheumatoid arthritis. In such cases, adjusting your dosage or type of medication can alleviate the depression symptoms. 

Lab Tests

For the same reason as performing a physical exam, your health care provider may order some lab work. They will probably do blood tests to check for anemia and vitamin D and calcium levels. The levels of thyroid hormones and hormones of other glands associated with depression are also assessed through blood work. 

Genetic testing may also come into play, seeing as there is also a genetic element to the origin of depression.

If Depression is Confirmed

If all the physical illnesses are ruled out, and the mental health assessment confirms that you have depression, it is not the end of the world. The opposite, in fact – it is the start of your journey to getting better! 

Depression is absolutely a treatable disorder. All you need to do is follow the guidelines and treatment your doctor’s layout for you. This treatment may include cognitive behavioral therapy (working through your issues via conversation with a licensed therapist) and antidepressant medication. 

Like you would regularly take antibiotics to treat an infection, you should also take your antidepressant medication as prescribed. If you start experiencing any uncomfortable side effects, talk to your doctor about a possible medication change. 

Depression treatment may also require some lifestyle changes, such as increased physical activity, a better diet, more social interaction with friends and family reducing stress levels, and anything else a mental health specialist considers helpful. If it is linked with a substance abuse disorder, you will also receive treatment for that. 

Conclusion

There are several facets to getting diagnosed with depression. From the moment you first bring up the issue with your doctor or mental health professional, it may take a few appointments until a definite diagnosis is reached. 

Don’t worry if your doctor performs physical exams and orders lab tests. Many physical conditions could cause depression symptoms, and the doctor needs to be sure you are not suffering from a hormonal disbalance, a neurological disorder, or similar. 

During the diagnostic process, you will answer a range of questions about your thoughts, moods, behavior, and attitudes in the last couple of weeks or more. For the most accurate assessment, you must be honest and forthcoming. 

After all, the purpose of a correct diagnosis is to help you get better with the right treatment and therapy procedure. Don’t be afraid of seeking help if you feel like something isn’t right, no matter how big or small it may seem. 

The Right Way Recovery is at your service if you need additional advice about getting tested for depression. Please contact us for more information; we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have!