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How Is Depression Diagnosed – Depression is diagnosed by a combination of lab tests, at-home testing, and talking to a patient. According to research from Boston University, the depression rate at the start of the pandemic went up a shocking 300%, and now the number is even worse. Struggling with this major depressive disorder can seriously affect every aspect of your life.

To effectively diagnose depression, your practitioner assesses your symptoms and does a psychiatric evaluation to screen for depression. They also perform a physical examination and lab tests to check the patient’s overall health. Your doctor may determine your depression diagnosis based on all these things. 

If you feel like you’ve been more depressed than normal and you suspect your behavior and mood changes are due to depression, it’s time to talk to a mental health professional to discover if you have this mental disorder. Read on to find out how is depression diagnosed and what steps you can take to feel better in the depression phase.

Table of Contents

Psychiatric Evaluation and Professional Screening 

To start the diagnostic process, you’ll reach out to a doctor or other medical professional. Your doctor will do a psychological evaluation by asking about symptoms, feelings, thought patterns, and family history of mental health conditions. They’ll also perform lab tests to check if you have a physical illness related to depression. We’ll discuss these tests in the following section. However, if your doctor suspects you have depression, it’s not uncommon that they’ll refer you to a mental health professional.

A mental health professional will use the DSM-5 Diagnostic criteria to determine whether you have a major depressive disorder. Also, they may use depression screening tools to measure the severity of depression. To receive a depression diagnosis, the person must have five or more symptoms of depression and experience the symptoms daily for at least two weeks. Besides, a person must have symptoms of a loss of interest in all activities or a depressed mood. Here are the depression symptoms that you need to be experienced to be diagnosed with depression:

  • Depressed mood or sadness
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Irritability
  • Lack of energy and fatigue
  • Appetite changes or significant weight changes 
  • Loss of interest in all activities 
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death
  • Feeling detached or a sense of worthlessness

Labs & Tests

Lab tests for diagnosis of depression are performed to check out your overall health. Your doctor will perform some standard tests in an initial physical exam to rule out the medical conditions that could lead to depressive symptoms, such as low mood, fatigue, and weight changes. These tests include:

1. MRI or CT Scan

This test assesses the serious illnesses in bran such as brain tumors. In some rare cases, brain tumors can cause depression symptoms.

2. Complete Blood Count (CBC)

A CBC test focuses on multiple types of cells found in blood and measures their amount. This test is performed to check infections (high white blood cells amount) or anemia (decreased blood iron levels), both of which cause fatigue.

3. Thyroid Tests

Thyroid dysfunction plays a crucial role in mood, behavior, and cognitive symptoms. Therefore, thyroid tests help check the blood for hormone levels produced by thyroid glands. If the gland is overactive or under, mood symptoms can occur.

4. Creatinine and Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)

These tests show how well the kidneys are functioning. Creatinine and BUN levels reflect the working of your kidneys. Kidney disease can lead to depression-like symptoms. Also, the doctors must know if the kidney isn’t working properly before prescribing any antidepressants. When kidneys’ function is impaired, they cannot metabolize medications properly.

5. Folate and Vitamin B12 Tests

Low levels of Vitamin B12 and B9 (Folate) show a condition known as pernicious anemia, which can cause psychiatric symptoms. 

6. Calcium/Magnesium Levels

Rarely, excess or deficiency of calcium and magnesium can also cause psychiatric illness. 

Self or Test at home 

Online depression tests help you figure out if you have any warning signs of depression. These tools cannot confirm the diagnosis, but they can help you take the right next step. You can only diagnose depression by a health care provider or mental health professional. If you’re taking an online test for depression, make sure it is from a credible source and always bring your answers to your clinician.

Furthermore, American Psychological Association (APA) curated a list of online assessment tools for depression. Some of these tests are free. You will answer the assessment on a scale-based system to help you better understand the intensity of symptoms that are disrupting your life. Lastly, if you’re diagnosed with depression, remember you’re not alone. Now you can treat this disorder with effective treatments. Numerous treatments like medications, natural remedies, and therapy are available for depression. 

However, self-help is necessary after diagnosis to feel better and stay positive in life. So, you should practice self-help and some following techniques for battling depression.

  • Practice mindfulness meditation
  • Do deep breathing
  • Try out things you love to do
  • Be grateful and focus on positive things
  • Eat healthy diet
  • Move your body
  • Get a proper night’s sleep
  • Spend time with your loved one that supports you
  • Seek professional support

All these techniques can help boost your mood by decreasing depression symptoms. 


Depression and its diagnosis don’t happen overnight. The sooner you talk to your doctor about your depression symptoms, the sooner you can feel better. To diagnose depression, you need to have a minimum of five symptoms of depression that last for at least two weeks. One symptom needs to be a loss of interest in activities or a depressed mood. 

If you get diagnosed with any type of depression, remember there are effective treatments available. You may benefit through medications, psychotherapy, or both. Importantly, you can also treat this mental condition without medication by making effective lifestyle changes and trying therapy from a vetted therapist or professional.

However, if you are struggling with depression in your relationships, in the workplace, or feel like depression is affecting your ability to function in life, consider reaching out to a mental health professional for a psychological evaluation. It’d be a great start to managing your depression.

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Picture of Vivien Roggero - Elite Transformation and Executive Coach
Vivien Roggero - Elite Transformation and Executive Coach
Vivien Roggero, an Elite Transformation and Executive Coach, specializes in high-performance coaching and personal transformation, guiding professionals to peak success and fulfillment. With decades of experience, Vivien empowers high achievers, executives, and entrepreneurs through mindset shifts and strategic development.
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