Tests & Diagnosis For Depression

Are you feeling depressed and planning to visit your doctor? If yes then you should know about

various diagnostic tests that your doctor might recommend.

In fact, not every test recommended by your doctor is a depression test. Most of the tests are used for ruling out other serious medical conditions that cause symptoms similar to that of depression.Generally, a psychiatrist will perform a physical exam and ask the patient to conduct specific lab tests for ruling out any other cause of depression symptoms.

In case your depression symptoms are due to other serious disease, the treatment of that disease will alleviate the symptoms of depression.

Physical Exam

A Physical exam used commonly by psychiatrists for ruling out any physical cause for depression. During the physical exam, a psychiatrist primarily focuses on nervous and hormonal systems.

Moreover, the psychiatrist will try to look for any major diseases that may present the symptoms of clinical depression.

Common medical conditions that may be associated with depressive symptoms are as follows.

  • Hypothyroidism caused by an underactive thyroid gland
  • Hyperthyroidism caused by an overactive thyroid
  • Cushing’s disease caused by disorder of the adrenal gland.
  • Central nervous system tumours
  • Head trauma
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Syphilis
  • Cancers

Apart from various medical conditions there are certain medications that contribute to the depression symptoms.

  • Corticosteroid medications such as prednisone (recommended in rheumatoid arthritis or asthma)
  • Illegal steroids and amphetamines
  • Over-the-counter appetite suppressants

Laboratory Tests

In most of the cases, your psychiatrist may ask you to conduct various lab tests for ruling out the other diagnoses.

Blood tests are used for checking anaemia, thyroid, hormone, and calcium levels.

  • Blood tests for TSH and thyroxin levels for excluding hypothyroidism
  • Basic electrolytes and serum calcium for ruling out metabolic disturbances
  • Full blood count including ESR for ruling out a systemic infection
  • Adverse affective reactions for alcohol misuse
  • Evaluation of Testosterone levels for diagnosing hypogonadism
  • Subjective cognitive complaints in older depressed people

Other Testing Methods

In some cases, your psychiatrist may recommend other tests as a part of physical exam.

  • Blood tests for checking electrolytes, liver function, and kidney function
  • CT scan or MRI of the brain for ruling serious brain diseases like brain tumour
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) for diagnosing heart problems
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) for recording electrical activity of the brain

Screening Tests for Depression

There are certain screening tests that are used for diagnosing depression. Your psychiatrist may ask you specific questions as a part of screening test for depression.

You may be asked to complete some questionnaires as a part of the diagnosing procedure. The screening tests assist the doctors in better analysis of the mood and symptoms of patient.

Depression screening instruments

The screening instruments help in measuring the severity of depression in patients.

  • Beck Depression Inventory (BDI): It comprises of 21 multiple-choice questions to be answered by patient. A self-report that is generated is used for measuring the severity of depression symptoms.
  • Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale: It is a short survey to be completed by patient and results are used for measuring the level of depression that may range from normal to severely depressed.
  • Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D): It is a screening instrument that allows patients to assess their mood and behaviour.
  • Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD): It is a multiple choice questionnaire to be answered by patients and it used for measuring the severity of a patient’s depression.