- Understanding Depression Slideshow
- Take the Depression Quiz
- Depression Tips Slideshow
- Depression FAQs
- Patient Comments: Depression - Treatments
- Patient Comments: Depression - Therapy
- Patient Comments: Depression - Symptoms in Teens
- Find a local Psychiatrist in your town
- Depression facts
- What is a depressive disorder? Depression vs. sadness
- What are myths about depression?
- What are the types of depression, and what are depression symptoms and signs?
- Depression symptoms and signs in men
- Depression symptoms and signs in women
- Depression symptoms and signs in teenagers
- Depression symptoms and signs in children
- What are the risk factors and causes of depression?
- Postpartum depression
- What specialists treat depression?
- What tests do health-care professionals use to diagnose depression?
- What treatments are available for depression?
- What is the general approach to treating depression?
- What about sexual dysfunction related to antidepressants?
- What about discontinuing antidepressants?
- What are complications of depression?
- What is the prognosis for depression?
- Is it possible to prevent depression?
- What about self-help and home remedies for depression?
- How can someone help a person who is depressed?
- Where can one seek help for depression?
- What is in the future for depression?
- Where can people find more information about depression?
Quick GuideLearn to Spot Depression: Symptoms, Warning Signs, Medication
What specialists treat depression?
A variety of health-care specialists evaluate and treat people with this condition, including the following:
- Primary-care providers like family doctors, internal-medicine practitioners, or geriatricians (physicians who specialize in treating the elderly)
- Mental-health specialists, such as psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, social workers, pastoral or mental-health nurses, or other counselors
- Primary care or mental-health prescribers, like physician assistants or nurse practitioners
- Health-maintenance organizations
- Community mental-health centers
- Hospital psychiatry departments and outpatient clinics
- Community support groups, often hospital affiliated
- University or medical school-affiliated programs
- State hospital outpatient clinics
- Family service/social agencies
- Private clinics and facilities
- Employee assistance programs
- Local medical and/or psychiatric societies
What tests do health-care professionals use to diagnose depression?
People who wonder if they should talk to their health professional about whether or not they have depression might consider taking a depression quiz or self-test, which asks questions about depressive symptoms. In thinking about when to seek medical advice about depression, the sufferer can benefit from considering if the sadness lasts more than two weeks or so or if the way they are feeling significantly interferes with their ability to function at home, school, or work and in their relationships with others. The first step to getting appropriate treatment is accurate diagnosis, which requires a complete physical and psychological evaluation to determine whether the person may have a depressive illness, and if so, what type. As previously mentioned, the side effects of certain medications, as well as some medical conditions and exposure to certain drugs of abuse, can include symptoms of depression. Therefore, the examining physician should rule out (exclude) these possibilities through a clinical interview, physical examination, and laboratory tests. Many primary-care doctors use screening tools, symptom tests, for depression, which are usually questionnaires that help identify people who have symptoms of depression and may need to receive a full mental-health evaluation.
A thorough diagnostic evaluation includes a complete history of the patient's symptoms:
- When did the symptoms start and under what circumstances/stressors?
- How long have symptoms lasted?
- How severe are the symptoms?
- Have the symptoms occurred before, and if so, were they treated, what treatment was received, and was it effective?
The doctor usually asks about alcohol and drug use and whether the patient has had thoughts about death or suicide. Further, the history often includes questions about whether other family members have had a depressive illness, and if treated, what treatments they received and which were effective. Professionals are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of exploring potential cultural differences in how people with depression experience, understand, and express depression in order to appropriately assess and treat this condition.
A diagnostic evaluation also includes a mental-status examination to determine if the patient's speech, thought pattern, or memory has been affected, as often happens in the case of a depressive or manic-depressive illness. As of today, there is no laboratory test, blood test, or X-ray that can diagnose a mental disorder. Even the powerful CT, MRI, SPECT, and PET scans, which can help diagnose other neurological disorders such as stroke or brain tumors, cannot detect the subtle and complex brain changes in psychiatric illness. However, these techniques are currently useful ruling out the presence of a number of physical disorders and in research on mental health and perhaps in the future they will be useful for the diagnosis of depression, as well.