How is major depression diagnosed?

Many people start with their family doctor. He or she often will refer the patient to a mental health care professional.

A doctor will do a physical examination and will evaluate your family history. Then the doctor will talk with you about your mood and symptoms, and will determine what symptoms are present, when they started, what medications you are taking and your state of mind.

A doctor may order lab tests to rule out illnesses that may cause symptoms that are similar to those of depression. These tests can include:

  • A complete blood count
  • A thyroid function test and thyroid-stimulating hormone level
  • BUN and creatinine, to check for kidney problems
  • Electrolytes
  • A serum toxicology screen to detect any drugs in your system

A number of other diagnostic tests may be used, and psychometric tests may be given, such as the Zung Self-rating Depression Scale, the Beck Depression Inventory and the Criteria for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression (CES-D) scale.

Other psychometric tests that can be used, depending on age, include the Children's Depression Inventory (CDI) and Yesavage Geriatric Depression Scale.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.