Diagnosing And Treating Depression
There’s no physical test for depression.
If you experience depression symptoms most of the day, every day, for more than two weeks, you should visit your GP. This is especially important if:
- you have symptoms of depression that aren’t getting any better
- you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide
- your work, relationships with friends and family, or interests are affected by your mood
It can be hard for people with depression to imagine that anything can help them but the sooner you seek help, the sooner the symptoms start to get better.
Your GP may examine you and perform blood or urine tests to make sure there isn’t another condition causing your depression symptoms, like an underactive thyroid.
When you see your GP, they’ll try to find out if you have depression by asking you questions. These are likely to be about your health, how you’re feeling, and how that is affecting you mentally and physically.
Telling your doctor your symptoms and the affect they are having on you will help your GP to tell if you have depression, and how severe the condition is. It’s important to be as open as possible.
Your conversation with your GP will be confidential. This rule can only be broken if your GP thinks there is a significant risk of harm to you or others, and that telling a family member or carer would make that risk lower.
Your Depression Goes Way Deeper Than Just Feeling Down
Bipolar depression shows up in different ways for different people. You might have trouble sleeping. Or you might sleep too much, and even find it hard to get up. The smallest decisions can seem huge. Overwhelming feelings of failure, guilt, or deep loss can trigger suicidal thoughts.
Other signs to look for:
- You feel like you canât enjoy anything.
- You find it hard to focus.
- You eat too little or too much.
- Youâre weary, and your movements seem slow.
- Youâre forgetful.
For a bipolar disorder diagnosis, you must have several depression symptoms that make it hard for you to function every day for at least 2 weeks.
What Are The Possible Causes Of Depression
Every person with depression is different, and everyone with depression has a unique set of circumstances. Usually, a combination of factors will contribute. While you often can’t pinpoint the cause of the depression, understanding the circumstances can sometimes help you understand how to best manage it.
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Get A Psych Evaluation
How do you get diagnosed with depression? The process begins by reaching out to your family doctor or another medical professional and requesting a psychological evaluation. While there isnt a specific laboratory test that can show depression, there is a standard procedure that leads to a depression diagnosis. A doctor will conduct a full evaluation and likely do blood work to rule out any medical conditions that may be contributing to any depression symptoms.
Should You Worry About Antidepressant Withdrawal
More to the point, while you should slowly stop your antidepressant with the help of your doctor, antidepressants do not cause dependence and withdrawal like other substances. Unlike substances that are known to cause addiction, such as alcohol, opioids, and barbiturates, people don’t crave antidepressants. You dont get high from them, and they arent intentionally or compulsively overused. Serious reactions like the seizures and agitation that can follow sudden withdrawal from addictive substances are unheard of when these antidepressants are tapered gradually, note the authors of the Psychiatric Times report.
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Diagnosing Depression And Lab Tests
Your doctor can usually tell if you have depression by asking you specific questions and doing a physical exam. Your doctor may, however, ask for lab tests to rule out other diagnoses. Your doctor will likely do blood tests to check for medical conditions that may cause depressive symptoms. They will use the blood tests to check for such things as anemia as well as thyroidÃ or possiblyÃ other hormones, and sometimesÃ calcium and vitamin D levels.
How Is Depression Treated
Depression treatment typically involves medication, psychotherapy, or both. If these treatments do not reduce symptoms, brain stimulation therapy may be another treatment option. In milder cases of depression, treatment might begin with psychotherapy alone, and medication added if the individual continues to experience symptoms. For moderate or severe depression, many mental health professionals recommend a combination of medication and therapy at the start of treatment.
Choosing the right treatment plan should be based on a persons individual needs and medical situation under a providers care. It may take some trial and error to find the treatment that works best for you. You can learn more about the different types of treatment, including psychotherapy, medication, and brain stimulation therapies on the NIMH’s depression webpage. For information on finding a mental health professional and questions to ask when considering therapy, visit NIMHs psychotherapies webpage.
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Can Depression Be Prevented
You can help prevent depression by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and practicing regular self-care activities such as exercise, meditation and yoga.
If youve had depression before, you may be more likely to experience it again. If you have depression symptoms, get help. Care can help you feel better sooner.
Different Types Of Depression
There are different types of depression, and there are some conditions where depression is a symptom. These conditions include:
- Bipolar disorder people with bipolar disorder, which is also known as “manic depression”, experience times of depression, where the symptoms are similar to clinical depression. They also go through phases when they have excessively high moods . Bouts of mania can include harmful behaviour like unsafe sex, spending sprees and gambling.
- Seasonal affective disorder is also called “winter depression”. It’s depression that is related to weather, usually winter, so it happens seasonally.
- Postnatal depression happens to some women after they’ve had a baby. It’s treated similarly to other types of depression, with antidepressant medication and talking therapy.
Learn more about how depression is diagnosed here.
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See Your Primary Care Doctor
If you suspect you may have depression, your first visit should be to your family doctor or primary care physician for a thorough checkup. While most doctors do screen for depression, it’s best to tell your doctor your concerns about your mood. Your doctor is there to help you, so don’t hold back.
Diagnostic Tests To Expect
Unfortunately, there isn’t currently a definitive lab test that can be used to diagnose depression so your doctor will do a few things. First, your doctor will perform a physical exam and run several different blood tests to rule out other conditions that might be causing your symptoms. Some of the possible tests might include:
- Complete blood count
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Whats The Difference Between Grief And Depression
Given that the primary symptom associated with depression is sadness, it can be easy to think of grief or bereavement as depression. But grief is a natural response to specific experiences, such as the end of a relationship or the death of a loved one. While you might feel regret or remorse, and you might withdraw from usual activities if you are experiencing grief, youre unlikely to feel the overwhelming sense of worthlessness, thoughts of self-harm or suicide, and other symptoms of depression. Another important difference is that in grief, painful feelings usually come in waves and are often mixed with positive memories.
American Family Physician
Does Depression Look The Same In Everyone
Depression can affect people differently, depending on their age.
Children with depression may be anxious, cranky, pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent, or worry that a parent may die.
Older children and teens with depression may get into trouble at school, sulk, be easily frustrated feel restless, or have low self-esteem. They also may have other disorders, such as anxiety and eating disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or substance use disorder. Older children and teens are more likely to experience excessive sleepiness and increased appetite . In adolescence, females begin to experience depression more often than males, likely due to the biological, life cycle, and hormonal factors unique to women.
Younger adults with depression are more likely to be irritable, complain of weight gain and hypersomnia, and have a negative view of life and the future. They often have other disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, panic disorder, and substance use disorders.
Middle-aged adults with depression may have more depressive episodes, decreased libido, middle-of-the-night insomnia, or early morning awakening. They also may more frequently report having gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation.
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Train Your Brain To Reduce Negativity
Mindfulness meditation is a powerful weapon for battling depression. Regular practice will teach you to witness your thoughts as they occur, which allows you to recognize negative thought patterns as they develop. When you learn to see them, you can proactively work to replace them with positive thoughts and mantras. Meditation puts you in touch with yourself and allows you to see depression and take back the power it holds over you.
Consider Seeing A Psychiatrist First
There’s a tendency for some new patients to visit a counselor or psychologist for their initial mental health evaluation rather than a psychiatrist. This can be beneficial for many people, especially if your case is not severe, but for others, it’s often not enough.
Only psychiatrists are also medical doctors, which means that they are able to prescribe medications.
If your depression stems from a chemical imbalance, talk therapy will not be sufficient to treat you. It’s best to make your initial visit to a psychiatrist, who can both prescribe medications and offer you psychotherapy if it’s needed. This two-pronged approach of medication and talk therapy is often the most beneficial to patients.
Psychotherapy is a broad term for a variety of different verbal and psychological techniques that are employed to help an individual work through their mental health condition or source of underlying stress. These techniques include but are not limited to psychoanalytic therapy or psychodynamic psychotherapy, behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy . Oftentimes, other mental health professionals in the field such as counselors and social workers will draw from psychotherapeutic techniques and use them with their clients.
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Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- What type of mental health problem might I have?
- Why cant I get over this problem on my own?
- How do you treat this type of problem?
- Will counseling or psychotherapy help?
- Are there medicines that could help?
- How long will treatment take?
- What can I do at home to help myself?
- Do you have any brochures or other printed material on my condition that I can have?
Seeing A Doctor About Depression
Big changes in your life, like bereavement, losing a job, or even having a baby, can cause symptoms of depression. You’re also more likely to experience depression if you have a family history of depression. However, it’s also possible to become depressed without there being an obvious reason.
You can learn more about depression causes here.
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Difficulty Concentrating Remembering And Making Decisions
Depression can interfere with a persons cognitive abilities. They may have trouble focusing or concentrating on personal or professional matters. Additionally, they may find it difficult to make decisions, even those involving seemingly minor, everyday choices.
People with depression may also find that they cannot remember things as well as they did previously. They might forget appointments or commitments and not recall things that they said or did recently.
How Are They Related
Both depression and anxiety are very common and often happen together. About 60% of people with anxiety also have symptoms of depression, and vice versa. Each condition can make symptoms of the other get worse or last longer.
The same genes may be behind both conditions. Anxiety and depression could also stem from the same structures or processes in the brain. Stress and trauma early in life can trigger both depression and anxiety.
If you have anxiety, you may be at greater risk for depression. Experts say avoiding the things you fear might lead to depression.
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What To Do If You Get Diagnosed With Depression
If youre diagnosed with any type of depression, know that you are not alone. Help and effective treatment is available, and there are simple, effective lifestyle changes you can make to begin feeling better, often right away. Lets look at some self-care and other techniques that can help keep you grounded and more positive in your daily life if you have depression diagnosed.
Can A Blood Test Diagnose Your Depression
Researchers are closing in on a host of helpful blood tests. Heres the latest developments.
When youre running a fever and feeling bad, your doctor will request lab tests to help determine whats making you ill. A simple blood test can pinpoint the diagnosis and help your doctor prescribe the best treatment. But symptoms of mental illness are far more complex to diagnose and treat so researchers are working to develop clinical tests diagnose depression and determine the best treatment.
If you struggle with depression or know someone who does, this news is huge. Seeking treatment and help is the first step towards recovery one that those suffering with depression symptoms often find difficult because their condition has left them tired, disinterested or feeling defeated. Knowing that a doctor or clinic can run blood tests to help kick-start recovery is a game changer.
But is it here now? Researchers have found some promising results:
Doctors routinely use blood tests to rule out medical conditions that may cause symptoms of depression or even contribute to depression, such as anemia, thyroid disease or a vitamin D deficiency. They also use series of questions or a questionnaire to screen for depression, along with a detailed medical history and a discussion of your mood and how it impacts your daily life.
Wondering if you are at risk for depression? Take Dominion Hospitals confidential and free online Depression Risk Assessment.
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Path To Improved Health
Sometimes it can be hard to start a conversation with your doctor about your mental health. Here are some tips that can help you before, during, and after your appointment.
Before your appointment:
- Your symptoms. These could be physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral changes that youve noticed in your life.
- How your mood affects your everyday life.
- Key personal information, such as traumatic events in your past, or current stressful situations you are facing.
- Your medical information, such as other physical or mental conditions you currently have. Also write down all medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter medicine and herbal supplements.
- Questions you want to ask your doctor.
During your appointment:
After your appointment
Overeating And Weight Gain
Conversely, some people with depression may eat more than usual. For some individuals, food can be a comfort mechanism for negative feelings and a way to deal with boredom or loneliness.
Depression can make it difficult for people to feel motivated to get outside or exercise. Combined with an increase in food intake, this can cause weight gain.
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How Long Will I Need Medicine
How long youll need to take the medicine depends on your depression. Your doctor may want you to take medicine for six months or longer. You need to take the medicine long enough to reduce the chance that the depression will come back. Talk with your doctor about any questions you have about your medicine.
What Your Physician Looks For
Your primary care physician can evaluate your physical health to help you understand your symptoms. Theres no lab test to diagnose depression, but physical exams and blood tests can help your doctor better understand whats causing your symptoms.
Your doctor will likely want to do several tests to rules out other causes of depressive feelings, such as:
- Hormonal changes
- Thyroid conditions
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
To treat your depression, your doctor may prescribe you medications to help or refer you to a licensed mental health professional, like a therapist, for more in-depth evaluation and treatment.
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Diagnosing Depression And Other Testing Methods
The doctor may include other standard tests as part of the initial physical exam. Among them may be blood tests to check electrolytes, liver function, toxicology screening, and kidney function. Because the kidneys and liver are responsible for the elimination of depression medications, impairment to either of these two organs may cause the drugs to accumulate in the body.
Other tests may sometimes include:
- CT scan or MRI of the brain to rule out serious illnesses such as a brain tumor
- Electrocardiogram to diagnose some heart problems
- Electroencephalogram to record electrical activity of the brain