Tests Used to Diagnose Depression
Depression Screening Tests
After discussing your mood and the way it affects your life, your doctor may also ask you questions that are used specifically to screen for depression. It's important to keep in mind that the inventories and questionnaires the doctor may use are just one part of the medical process of diagnosing depression. These tests, however, can sometimes give your doctor better insight into your mood. He or she can use them to make a diagnosis with more certainty.
One example of a screening test is a two-part questionnaire that has been shown to be highly reliable in identifying the likelihood of depression. When you take this test, you will be asked to answer two questions:
- During the past month, have you been bothered by feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?
- During the past month, have you been bothered by little interest or pleasure in doing things?
Your answer to the two questions will determine what the doctor does next. The doctor may ask you additional questions to help confirm a diagnosis of depression. Or if your answers indicate you do not have depression, the doctor may review your symptoms again to continue the effort to find the cause. Studies show that these two questions, especially when used with another test as part of the assessment process, are highly effective tools for detecting most cases of depression.
Your doctor may use other depression screening instruments as well. Examples include:
- Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), -- a 21-question multiple-choice self-report that measures the severity of depression symptoms and feelings
- Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale -- a short survey that measures the level of depression, ranging from normal to severely depressed
- Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D) -- an instrument that allows patients to evaluate their feelings, behavior, and outlook from the previous week
- Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD), also known as the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) or abbreviated to HAM-D -- a multiple choice questionnaire that doctors may use to rate the severity of a patient's depression
When you take a test or inventory, you may feel uncomfortable responding honestly to questions or statements that are made. The person who administers the test will be asking about depression and mood, depression and cognition, and the physical feelings of depression such as lack of energy, sleep disturbance, and sexual problems. Try to be as honest as you can when assessing your symptoms. Then your doctor can make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the most effective treatment.
If the Diagnosis Is Depression
Depression is highly treatable. Consequently, a depression diagnosis can start you on the road to a healthier life without feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness.
Once your doctor makes a depression diagnosis, you need to follow the treatment program to get better. It's important to take the medications as prescribed. You also need to follow through on making lifestyle changes and working with a psychotherapist if that's what your doctor recommends. Millions of people with depression suffer needlessly because they don't get professional help that starts with a doctor's diagnosis.