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Diagnosis of Depression

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may also do a mental health evaluation and search for physical causes of depression. These findings will be used to make the diagnosis. There is no blood test or specific diagnostic test for depression.

Depression is often diagnosed based on questions about your symptoms:

  • When the symptoms started
  • What the triggering events are
  • How severe the symptoms are
  • How symptoms affect your daily activities
  • Whether you also have chronic pain
  • Whether you have had these symptoms before and, if so, whether the symptoms were treated and what treatment was given
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Family members who have or have had depression
  • Sleep patterns
  • Physical exam—Your doctor will give you a thorough physical exam. Certain medications, as well as some conditions, can cause the same symptoms as depression. Your doctor can rule out these possibilities through a physical exam, interview, and lab tests. The physical exam may include a mental status exam to determine if your speech, thought patterns, or memory have been affected. This may indicate a neurological cause of depression.
  • Psychological evaluation—A psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or mental health counselor can give you a psychological exam. You may take a special screening test for depression, such as the Beck Depression Inventory or the Hamilton Rating Scale. These tests have limitations however, and must be interpreted in the context of your symptoms and personal situation.
  • Evaluation for other conditions that may coexist with depression, such as alcohol use disorder, drug abuse, anxiety disorders, or personality disorders.

Revision Information

  • DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association website. Available at: Accessed September 30, 2015.

  • Depression. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated September 15, 2015. Accessed September 30, 2015.

  • Depression. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: Accessed September 30, 2015.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. TriStar Health does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.