Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may also do a mental health evaluation and search for physical causes of
depression. These findings will be used to make the diagnosis. There is no blood test or specific diagnostic test for depression.
Depression is usually diagnosed based on the duration (2 weeks or more), frequency (almost daily), number (5 or more), and nature of your symptoms. Questions about your symptoms may include: When the symptoms startedWhat the triggering events areHow severe the symptoms areHow symptoms affect your daily activitiesWhether you also have chronic painWhether you have had these symptoms before and, if so, whether the symptoms were treated and what treatment was givenThoughts of death or suicideFamily members who have or have had depressionSleep patterns Physical exam—Your doctor will give you a thorough physical exam. Certain medications, as well as some conditions, can cause the same symptoms as depression. Your doctor can rule out these possibilities through a physical exam, interview, and lab tests. The physical exam may include a mental status exam to determine if your speech, thought patterns, or memory have been affected. This may indicate a neurological cause of depression.Psychological evaluation—A psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or mental health counselor can give you a psychological exam. You may take a special screening test for depression, such as the Beck Depression Inventory or the Hamilton Rating Scale. These tests have limitations however, and must be interpreted in the context of your symptoms and personal situation.
Evaluation for other psychologic conditions that may coexist with depression, such as
alcohol use disorder,
anxiety disorders, mania, or personality disorders.
DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association website. Available at:
http://www.psychiatry.org/dsm5. Accessed August 10, 2016.
Major depressive disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Available at: Updated March 31, 2016. Accessed August 10, 2016.
National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at:
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtm Updated May 2016. Accessed August 10, 2016.
Last reviewed August 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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