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.
Are there physical signs of depression?
There are no inevitable physical signs of depression, though some manifestations may be seen quite often. Signs of depression may include the following:
- Appearance of preoccupation
- Lack of eye contact
- Memory loss, poor concentration, and poor abstract reasoning
- Pacing, hand wringing, and pulling on hair
- Psychomotor retardation or agitation, such as slowed speech, sighs, and long pauses
- Self-deprecatory manner, or belligerence and defiance (especially in adolescents)
- Slowed body movements, even to the extent of being motionlessness or catatonic
- Tearfulness or sad countenance
What lab tests can help make the depression diagnosis?
After reviewing the information given at your appointment, including the signs and symptoms, patient history, family history, and physician exam, your doctor may ask for some lab tests to rule out a physical condition that may be causing your symptoms. For example, hypothyroidism could also cause symptoms of depression. Your doctor will also want to review all medications you are taking as well as the alcohol or recreational drugs you may be using.
How can I help the doctor make a proper diagnosis?
Before your doctor's appointment, write down a list of concerns you may have about depression and specific symptoms of depression you might have. It is also helpful to get an in-depth family history from relatives before meeting with your doctor. This key information can help the doctor make an accurate diagnosis and ensure effective treatment. Before your visit, consider and record the following:
- Your mental and physical health concerns
- Symptoms you've noticed
- Unusual behaviors you've had
- Past illnesses
- Your family history of depression
- Medications you are taking now and in the past, including both prescribed and over-the-counter medications
- Unusual side effects of medications you are taking or have taken
- Natural dietary supplements you are taking
- Your lifestyle habits (exercise, diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, drug use)
- Your sleep habits
- Causes of stress in your life (marriage, work, social)
- Questions you have about depression and depression medications