Diagnostic Tests to Identify Depression

Depression is much more common than most people realize and certainly not due to any fault of the sufferer. The earlier a person seeks help to cure depression, the better it is for him and his loved ones. The early warning signs are often ignored as just a passing phase. Sometimes a person may have gone through a difficult or trying time and hence it is natural not to feel particularly bright and optimistic at all times. However it is important to recognize that sometimes one needs professional help to overcome depression, even if one feels it a temporary phase and one can handle it.

Very often when a person seeks professional help he spends a lot of time with a psychiatrist and then a psychologist in order to establish or confirm the diagnosis. Depression is actually a fairly general term that covers a range of depressive disorders. In order to cure depression the doctor needs to identify the type and treat it appropriately. It is only after the diagnosis has been confirmed that the doctor can proceed to cure depression in a patient.

The doctor takes a detailed history of the patient’s background, symptoms and any triggering episodes. It is important to be completely honest with the doctor as this will help you overcome depression. The doctor seeks information about many physical and emotional signs in the sufferer. The most common signs of depression include the inability to experience pleasure. Nothing seems to make the person happy. Depressed people are often withdrawn from their family and friends. The doctor also looks for telltale signs of low motivation and energy and low tolerance of frustration.

Other information that the doctor needs to know is about any loss in sex drive, unusual weight gain or weight loss and in the case of women if there have been any abnormalities in the menstrual cycle. Insomnia and early morning awakening, symptoms of depression being worse in the mornings are other typical signs. Patients often complain of constipation, headaches and dry mouth.

The psychologist observes the patient and conducts certain tests to determine the mental status. The general appearance and behavior gives a lot of information, particularly if the person appears agitated and avoids eye contact. The person also seems downcast and is unconcerned about his or her physical appearance. The persons mood may be depressed, irritable frustrated or sad and speech may lack spontaneity. Many depressed persons have suicidal thoughts and deep feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. This often leads to impaired judgment and also poor memory.

A psychologist carefully assesses if five or more of the above symptoms are present in the patient. Further he checks if they cause impairment in the person’s normal social, occupational or other functioning. He delves into the personal history to determine whether the symptoms are not due to substance abuse or recent loss of a loved one. The doctor will also rule out any other psychological disorder. If the person has been suffering like this for over two months and is finding it difficult to function normally, the doctor will diagnose the ailment as a major depressive episode.

Depression has certain age specific symptoms as well. In young persons it can lead to substance abuse, promiscuity and antisocial behavior. Elderly patients suffer from memory loss, confusion and disorientation. Whatever the diagnosis, modern medicine can help a person overcome depression. It helps the doctor make the diagnosis if the patient cooperates with the doctor. After all both patient and doctor are looking to cure depression so the person can live a full life once again.