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Self-Screening and Testing

Depression is a common yet serious illness. Everyone feels sad at times, but depression is different than normal sadness or grief. Depression can affect how you think, feel, and behave. Depression makes it hard to function at home and work. You may lose interest in activities you once enjoyed. Some people with depression feel worthless and are at risk for harming themselves.


Depression is a significant problem and should not be ignored. You should always seek help from professional healthcare provider. When you go to the doctor, normally your primary care provider may give you a physical exam and ask you about your feelings, mood, sleep habits, and other symptoms.


Your provider may also order some laboratory tests (such as a blood test) to find out if a disorder (such as anemia or thyroid disease) may be causing your depression. In fact, many patients with depression will initially find out that they are go through some physical problems/pains, including:

  • Back pain

  • Headache

  • Joint pain

  • Limb pain

  • Intestinal problems (digestion problems and abdominal pain)

  • Persistent tiredness

  • Sleep problems

  • Slowed physical movement and thinking


Therefore, while laboratory tests are not required to confirm depression, in most cases, these tests are used to rule out the possibility that the Depression-like symptoms are actually caused by other medical conditions/reasons, such as certain viral, drug, hormone, or vitamin deficiencies and diseases. Doctors also need to consider other factors such as any medications the patient is taking and alcohol/recreational drugs.


After lab tests, if other medical reasons are rules out, you will be evaluated by a mental health provider, he or she may ask you more detailed questions about your feelings and behaviors. You may also be asked to fill out a questionnaire about these issues – that’s the gold standard and state-of-art method to diagnose depression.


Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms, including how long you've had them, when they started, and how they were treated. They’ll ask about the way you feel, including whether you have any symptoms of depression such as:

  • Sadness or depressed mood most of the day or almost every day

  • Loss of enjoyment in things that were once pleasurable

  • Major change in weight (gain or loss of more than 5% of weight within a month) or appetite

  • Insomnia or excessive sleep almost every day

  • Physical restlessness or sense of being run-down that others can notice

  • Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day

  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness or excessive guilt almost every day

  • Problems with concentration or making decisions almost every day

  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide, suicide plan, or suicide attempt


To be diagnosed with major depression, you must have at least five of the symptoms listed above with at least one of the first two nearly daily for at least 2 weeks.


【Important take-away messages】

In summary, a doctor can rule out other conditions that may cause depression with a physical examination, a personal interview, and lab tests. The doctor will also do a complete diagnostic evaluation, discussing any family history of depression or other mental illness.


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