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    Mental Health: Depression

    How Is Depression Diagnosed?

    The diagnosis of depression often begins with a medical and psychiatric history and possibly also a physical exam by a health care provider. Screening and treatment can be managed by a primary care doctor or a mental health professional. Although there are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose depression, the health care provider may use various tests to look for other medical conditions as the cause of the symptoms. If another medical condition is ruled out, your health care provider may begin treatment with a medicine for depression, or may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for evaluation.

    Diagnosis is based on the intensity and duration of symptoms -- including any problems with functioning caused by the symptoms.

    How Is Depression Treated?

    The most common treatment for depression includes the combination of antidepressant drugs, including selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants, and psychotherapy (talk therapy). Sometimes a combination of medicines is used to treat depression.

    Sometimes, atypical antipsychotic medicines or other drugs (such as lithium or other mood stabilizers) may be used in combination with antidepressants, when antidepressants alone are not fully effective at treating depression.

    Electroconvulsive therapy, also called ECT, may be used when highly severe depression is disabling and unresponsive to other forms of therapy.

    What Is the Outlook for People With Depression?

    The outlook for depressed people who seek treatment is very promising. By working with a qualified and experienced mental health care professional, you can regain control of your life.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on May 18, 2016
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