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    Depression Diagnosis

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    What does the doctor look for to make a depression diagnosis?

    A doctor can rule out other conditions that may cause depression with a physical examination, personal interview, and lab tests. The doctor will also conduct a complete diagnostic evaluation, discussing any family history of depression or other mental illness. Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms, including how long you've had them, when they started, and how they were treated. Your doctor will ask questions about the way you feel, including whether you have any symptoms of depression such as the following:

    • Sadness or depressed mood most of the day or almost every day
    • Loss of enjoyment in things that were once pleasurable
    • Major change in weight (gain or loss of more than 5% of weight within a month) or appetite
    • Insomnia or excessive sleep almost every day
    • Physical restlessness or sense of being rundown that is noticeable by others
    • Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
    • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness or excessive guilt almost every day
    • Problems with concentration or making decisions almost every day
    • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide, suicide plan, or suicide attempt

    How can depression symptoms lead to a depression diagnosis?

    To be diagnosed with major depression, you must have at least five of the symptoms listed above with at least one of the first two nearly daily for at least two weeks.

    Depression symptoms can last for weeks, months or sometimes even years. They can affect personality and interfere with social relationships and work habits, potentially making it difficult for others to have empathy for you. Some symptoms are so disabling that they interfere significantly with your ability to function. In very severe cases, people with depression may be unable to eat, maintain their hygiene, or even get out of bed.

    Episodes may occur only once in a lifetime or may be recurrent, chronic, or longstanding. In some cases, they seem to last forever. Symptoms may appear to be precipitated by life crises. At other times, they may seem to occur at random.

    Clinical depression commonly occurs along with other medical illnesses such as heart disease or cancer and worsens the prognosis for these illnesses.

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