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Symptoms / Diagnosis


The sooner you get diagnosed and treated, the sooner you can get back on the road to wellness. Learn more about depression symptoms, how doctors make a diagnosis, and the most common types of depression.
  1. Could You Be Depressed?
  2. Types of Depression
  3. Signs and Symptoms
  1. Getting an Formal Diagnosis
  2. Common Causes of Depression
  3. Concerned for a Loved One?

Could You Be Depressed?

While a screening test can't diagnose depression, it can help familiarize you with the symptoms of depression so that you can determine if you may need to seek professional help.

Types of Depression

Depressive disorders may be classified as major depressive, dysthymic, or not otherwise specified -- a catch-all for conditions that do not fit the other categories. Specifiers, such as atypical, postpartum, or seasonal, may be added to a diagnosis to describe the nature of the most recent episode of depression or the course of the illness over time. Depression may also be part of bipolar disorder, in which a patient experiences alternating periods of depression and mania. It may seem like depression is depression, but there are many shades of grey that set one type apart from another.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of depression can seem both subtle or pronounced. Knowing what to be on the lookout for can help you determine when it's time to see a doctor.

Getting an Formal Diagnosis

In order to make a diagnosis of depression, your doctor uses a set of diagnostic criteria found in a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. During his interview with you he will look for any signs of depression that you may be exhibiting and ask you about your symptoms. He will also ask about your and your family's medical history. In certain cases, he will also order laboratory tests to rule out any other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.

Common Causes of Depression

In a general sense, depression is caused by an imbalance in chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters; however, a variety of factors - including your genetic makeup, your environment, your physical condition and your psychological coping resources - interact together to determine whether you will develop depression.

Concerned for a Loved One?

It is very important for those who love a depressed person--as well as the depression person themselves--to understand that a depressed person suffers from a very real illness. A depressed person cannot just "snap out of it" or "cheer up". They are not weak, lazy, defective, or seeking attention. They are ill and need your help.

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