Diagnosing Depression

The first stage in making a depression diagnosis involves the healthcare provider asking the patient a number of questions related to his or her current symptoms and recent events in his or her life, among other things. The healthcare provider then considers conditions that can share similar symptoms with depression. Finally, the healthcare provider considers treatable causes of depression, which can include medicines, nutritional problems, or substance abuse.

Diagnosing Depression: An Overview

There is no one specific test that can be used for diagnosing depression. Therefore, in order to make a diagnosis, the healthcare provider will begin by asking a number of questions. This is known as taking the patient's medical history. Some of these questions may be related to:
 
  • Current symptoms, including:
 
    • Any thoughts of suicide
    • Feeling of hopelessness
    • Preoccupation with issues related to death
 
  • Other medical conditions, including a recent history of stroke or heart attack
  • Current medications
  • Recent events in one's life
  • A history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • A family history of any medical conditions.
     
After asking these and other questions, the healthcare provider will perform a physical exam, looking for signs of conditions known to cause depression. There are no specific lab tests that can help in making a depression diagnosis.
  

Is the Diagnosis Depression or Another Medical Condition?

Before diagnosing depression, the healthcare provider will also consider other conditions that share a number of symptoms with depression. Some of these conditions include:
 
 
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