If you are planning to see your doctor about depression, here is information about the kinds of tests your doctor might order. First, keep in mind that not every test is a "depression test." Some tests aren't used to diagnose clinical depression but rather to rule out other serious medical conditions that may cause similar symptoms.
In most cases, the doctor will do a physical exam and ask for specific lab tests to make sure your depression symptoms aren't related to a condition such as thyroid disease, vitamin D deficiency, or another medical problem. If your symptoms are related to another serious illness, treating that illness may also help ease the depression.
Almost everyone has dark thoughts when his or her mood is bad. With depression, though, the thoughts can be extremely negative. They can also take over and distort your view of reality.
Cognitive therapy can be an effective way to defuse those thoughts. When used for depression, cognitive therapy provides a mental tool kit that can be used to challenge negative thoughts. Over the long term, cognitive therapy for depression can change the way a depressed person sees the world.
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Again, the goal with a physical exam is usually to rule out a physical cause for depression. When performing the physical exam, the doctor may focus primarily on the neurological and endocrine systems. The doctor will try to identify any major health concerns that may be contributing to symptoms of clinical depression. For example, hypothyroidism -- caused by an underactive thyroid gland -- is the most common medical condition associated with depressive symptoms. Other endocrine disorders associated with depression include hyperthyroidism -- caused by an overactive thyroid -- and Cushing's disease -- a disorder of the adrenal gland.
Many central nervous system illnesses and injuries can also lead to depression. For example, depression might be associated with any of the following conditions:
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. He or she will use the blood tests to check for such things as anemia as well as thyroid, other hormone, and calcium and vitamin D levels.