Diagnosing depression is not always easy. One of the biggest obstacles is recognizing that you or someone you know or love is suffering from depression. Many times the signs and symptoms are slow to surface making it more difficult to see the changes happening. Many people are reluctant to admit that they are not feeling well emotionally or are worried about the stigma placed on people with depression. It is estimated that approximately half the people who do suffer from depression never seek any help.
The first person someone who is feels they are suffering from depression should see is their family doctor. A thorough physical will rule out any illness or medication that may be causing the symptoms of depression. Your physician will look at past health issues, family history and any history of drug or alcohol use to determine if there is some form of physical cause for your depression.
If there is no apparent physical cause then an evaluation by a psychiatrist or psychologist is needed. Psychiatrists and psychologists diagnose depression based on standards set by the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM-IV diagnostic manual. The criteria to meet a diagnosis of depression as stated in the manual are:
You have had an episode of depression lasting at least two weeks with at least five of the following symptoms:
1. You are depressed, sad, blue, and tearful.
2. You have lost interest or pleasure in things you previously liked to do.
3. Your appetite is much less or much greater than usual and you have lost or gained weight.
4. You have a lot of trouble sleeping or sleep too much.
5. You are so agitated, restless, or slowed down that others have begun to notice.
6. You are tired and have no energy.
7. You feel worthless or excessively guilty about things you have done or not done.
8. You have trouble concentrating, thinking clearly, or making decisions.
9. You feel you would be better off dead or have thoughts about killing yourself.
A. These symptoms are severe enough to upset your daily routine, or to seriously impair your work, or to interfere with your relationships.
B. The depression does not have a specific cause like alcohol, drugs, medication side effect, or physical illness.
C. Your depression is not just a normal reaction to the death of a loved one.
Once evaluated a psychiatrist or psychologist can classify the type of depression one may be suffering from and recommend a course of treatment involving medication, therapy or a combination of the two. If the depression is related to a medical condition it is important that a person seek medical help for that as well. Often resolving the medical illness will make the depression disappear.
While many people have the "blues" from time to time it is important to distinguish the difference between feeling down every once in a while to the more long term signs of depression. A good place to start if you are feeling symptoms of depression is with an online depression test. This can be a good first step to getting the help one needs to fight this debilitating disease.