How is Depression Diagnosed?
Depression is typically diagnosed by a healthcare professional, such as a primary care physician or mental health provider. The diagnosis is usually based on a combination of self-reported symptoms, a physical exam, and a psychological evaluation.
To diagnose depression, healthcare professionals typically use the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The DSM-5 lists the following criteria for major depressive disorder:
- The presence of one or more major depressive episodes
- The presence of at least five of the following symptoms during the same two-week period:
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities
- Significant weight loss or gain, or appetite changes
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation
- The symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning
- The symptoms are not due to the effects of a substance or a medical condition
Depression and Bipolar Disorder: What’s the Difference?
Depression and bipolar disorder are two distinct mental health conditions with different symptoms and diagnostic criteria, despite both involving depressive episodes. Depression is a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable, whereas bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by cycles of mania (elevated, expansive, or irritable mood) and depression. It’s important to note that bipolar disorder can be a complex condition, and there are different types of bipolar disorder with varying patterns of manic and depressive episodes. Additionally, depression can be a symptom of bipolar disorder, making diagnosis and treatment complex. If you experience the following:
- Elevated, expansive, or irritable mood
- Increased energy or restlessness
- Decreased need for sleep
- Grandiosity or inflated self-esteem
- Racing thoughts or flight of ideas
- Distractibility or impulsivity
- Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that may have negative consequences
It is advisable to get a proper diagnosis by a trained professional as it is possible that bi-polar disorder is involved.
Other Similar Conditions
There are several conditions that share symptoms with depression, which can make diagnosis and treatment challenging. Some conditions that are similar to depression include:
Anxiety Disorders: Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder, can cause symptoms such as feelings of restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disturbances, which can overlap with symptoms of depression.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a condition that can occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD may include intrusive memories, avoidance of triggers, hypervigilance, and mood changes, which can overlap with symptoms of depression.
Chronic Stress: Chronic stress can cause a range of physical and emotional symptoms, including fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and feelings of hopelessness, which can overlap with symptoms of depression.
Substance Use Disorders: Substance use disorders, such as alcohol or drug addiction, can cause symptoms such as mood changes, social withdrawal, and sleep disturbances, which can overlap with symptoms of depression.
Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders, chronic pain, or neurological disorders, can cause symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and mood changes, which can overlap with symptoms of depression.
How Symptoms Differ Between Different Genders
Depression can affect people of all genders, but men may experience symptoms differently than women. Some common symptoms of depression in men include:
Anger, Irritability, or Aggression: Men with depression may be more likely to express their emotions through anger, irritability, or aggressive behavior.
Substance Abuse: Men with depression may be more likely to turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with their symptoms.
Physical Symptoms: Men with depression may be more likely to experience physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems, and chronic pain.
Sleep Disturbances: Men with depression may be more likely to experience sleep disturbances such as insomnia or difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Fatigue: Men with depression may feel unusually tired or lacking in energy, which can make it difficult to complete daily tasks.
Loss of Interest in Activities: Men with depression may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, such as hobbies or socializing with friends.
Difficulty Concentrating: Men with depression may have trouble concentrating, making decisions, or remembering details.
Some common symptoms of depression in women include:
Mood Changes: Women with depression may experience mood changes, such as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness.
Anxiety: Women with depression may also experience symptoms of anxiety, such as restlessness, irritability, or worry.
Sleep Disturbances: Women with depression may have trouble falling or staying asleep, or may sleep too much.
Fatigue: Women with depression may feel unusually tired or lacking in energy, which can make it difficult to complete daily tasks.
Changes in Appetite or Weight: Women with depression may experience changes in appetite or weight, such as increased or decreased appetite or unintended weight gain or loss.
Loss of Interest in Activities: Women with depression may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, such as hobbies or socializing with friends.
Physical Symptoms: Women with depression may also experience physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems, and chronic pain.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or a related condition, it’s important to seek professional help from a healthcare provider. They can help determine the most appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan for your individual needs.