Only a mental health professional can diagnose you with major depressive disorder. However, it can help to know how depression is diagnosed so you know more of what to expect at your in-office or virtual visit.

Key Takeaways

  • Depression is a serious condition that needs to be addressed with proper care and treatment.
  • Treatment options for depression may include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, or a combination of these methods.
  • An individualized plan tailored to one’s needs should be developed to find the best course for recovery from depression.
  • Healthy lifestyle habits like eating a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and carving out “me time” can make a world of difference in terms of overall mental well-being
  • No single approach works for everyone suffering from depression. Each individual requires a personalized plan to find relief and reclaim their mental well-being
  • Understanding the causes behind depression and available treatments can provide valuable insight into this condition and lead those suffering to a happier life.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a complex mental disorder that manifests in various ways, from changes in mood, energy, and behavior to physical depression symptoms.

Common symptoms include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • General lack of motivation and self-esteem

Many people experience some depression in their lifetime, but clinical depression is diagnosed when the intensity and duration of these symptoms are such that they interfere with daily life. Some people avoid seeking treatment due to negative myths regarding depression,

However, this is a mistake. Symptoms include difficulty concentrating, fatigue, decreased energy or appetite, insomnia or oversleeping, restlessness, or irritability. Thoughts or even plans of death or suicide are not uncommon in severe cases.

The Importance of Correctly Diagnosing Depression

It is essential to diagnose depression accurately to provide individuals with appropriate care and treatment.

Diagnosis of depression helps to identify underlying causes as well as establish appropriate support strategies. Early diagnosis also means that interventions can be provided sooner, which can have a positive effect on an individual’s overall well-being.

Effective diagnosis can also help reduce the risk of developing chronic mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder.

Accurate identification of clinical depression enables individuals to receive the specific treatment needed to manage their depression symptoms, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or antidepressant medication.

Diagnosis also ensures those affected by depression can access the proper social and occupational support they may require due to the impact of their depressive symptoms on everyday life.

The correct diagnosis is also critical when considering any potential comorbidities or other mental health conditions that could be present alongside depression, such as anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Diagnosing depression correctly is vital for determining a suitable course of action for each person so they can get the best help possible in managing their condition and improving their well-being.

Causes of Depression – Biological, Psychological, and Environmental Factors That Can Contribute to the Development of Depression

Biological Factors

Various biological factors can lead to depression, including:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Neurochemistry
  • Hormones
  • Brain structures
  • Overall physical health

Depression is highly inheritable, so individuals with a family history of depression may be more vulnerable to developing the disorder.

Neurochemical changes in neurotransmitter levels, such as serotonin and dopamine, can also contribute to depression. Hormone imbalances caused by medical conditions like thyroid disease or chronic stress are another factor that can cause a person to become more prone to depressive episodes.

Changes in certain parts of the brain (namely the amygdala and hippocampus) have been linked to an increased risk of developing depression. At the same time, damage or malfunctions in these areas may cause a person to experience persistent low moods or other depression symptoms.

Underlying physical health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer can adversely affect mental health and put people at greater risk for depression.

All of these biological factors work together to create what is known as the biopsychosocial model, which explains how biological processes interact with psychological and environmental influences to lead someone into a state of clinical depression.

Psychological Factors

Psychological factors can also play a role in the development of depression. Low self-esteem, unrealistic expectations, and negative thinking patterns can all contribute to depression.

Psychological conditions such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and substance use disorder can increase the risk of experiencing major depressive episodes.

People who lack adequate coping strategies when faced with stressful situations may be more prone to developing depressive symptoms.

In addition, people who feel isolated from their peers or have a sense of loneliness may find themselves unable to cope with the challenges they face in life, which could lead to depression. Certain personality traits, including neuroticism and perfectionism, can also increase vulnerability to developing depression if not managed properly.

Individuals need to be aware of their predispositions and personal triggers to manage these issues effectively and reduce their chances of developing clinical depression.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors can also contribute to depression, particularly when it comes to social situations. Individuals who are in unstable or hostile environments with limited access to support systems and resources may be more prone to developing depression.

People exposed to frequent criticism or emotional invalidation by friends, family, or other significant people in their lives may find themselves struggling with feelings of hopelessness and low self-worth that could lead to depressive episodes.

Individuals living in poverty have been found to have a higher risk of depression than those from more affluent households due to the lack of resources and opportunities often associated with lower incomes. Other environmental stressors, such as discrimination or bullying, can contribute to the risk of developing depression, as these experiences can leave people feeling powerless and isolated.

Even changing jobs, moving towns, or graduating from school can be difficult transitions that cause people to feel overwhelmed and lead them into a state of clinical depression.

Certain life events, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or being diagnosed with a chronic illness, can all increase the risk of experiencing depressive symptoms. These events often come with intense emotions that an individual may not know how to process effectively, resulting in prolonged sadness and loneliness that can lead to depression if left untreated.

Therefore, understanding how environmental factors interact with biological and psychological components is essential for accurately diagnosing someone’s condition so they can receive the right help for their mental health needs.

Diagnosis Procedure – The Steps Taken by Medical Professionals To Diagnose Depression

Although each diagnosis is different, here are common steps mental health professionals may take to diagnose depression in individuals:

Psychological Evaluation

Psychological evaluation is widely used in diagnosing depression due to its usefulness as a tool for assessing an individual’s mental state. The evaluation involves questioning, interviews, and the use of tests that measure a person’s mood, thoughts, and behavior to identify any signs of depression.

This type of assessment allows mental health professionals to gain insight into an individual’s symptoms and help determine whether they are experiencing major depressive disorder or another form of depression.

Psychological evaluation is especially important for those receiving treatment, as it can be used to monitor progress over time and provide personalized care that is tailored to the needs of each individual.

Physical Exam

Physical exams can provide invaluable information when diagnosing depression. During the examination, doctors look for clues in a patient’s physical appearance such as posture, facial expressions, and muscle tension.

Additionally, they may check the patient’s reflexes and coordination to assess psychomotor activity. Labeling these responses helps to reveal any changes in their cognitive functioning that could be symptoms of depression.

Physical exams can be an essential tool in diagnosing depression, as they can provide valuable information about a patient’s mental state.

Unfortunately, many doctors do not perform physical exams when diagnosing depression, instead relying solely on the patient’s self-reported symptoms. Physical exams can help to identify signs of depression that the patient, such as psychomotor changes or abnormal vital signs, may not report.

By performing physical exams when diagnosing depression, doctors can gain a complete understanding of their patient’s mental health and provide better treatment for them.

Lab Tests

Lab tests are often used to diagnose depression. These tests measure the levels of hormones, neurotransmitters, and other substances in the body that can be associated with depression.

For example, a test might measure the level of serotonin in the brain, which is thought to play a role in depression. Lab tests can also help rule out other conditions causing symptoms similar to depression, such as thyroid disorders or vitamin deficiencies.

By providing a complete picture of an individual’s health, lab tests can help doctors make an accurate diagnosis and develop an effective treatment plan for depression.

Complications of Misdiagnosis – How a Wrong or Missed Diagnosis Can Lead to Further Difficulties and Harms Associated With Depression

Misdiagnosis of depression can have serious consequences. When a person is misdiagnosed, they may not receive the proper treatment for their condition, leading to further difficulties and harm associated with depression.

Here’s a hypothetical scenario: if someone is misdiagnosed as having anxiety when they are actually suffering from depression, they may be prescribed medications that are ineffective in treating their condition. This can lead to an exacerbation of symptoms and further complications, such as an increased risk of suicide or self-harm.

A wrong or missed diagnosis can lead to delays in treatment which can have long-term effects on a person’s mental health.

Individuals who are experiencing symptoms of depression must seek out professional help so that they can receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. It is possible that if untreated, depression can cause even your physical health to deteriorate.

The Importance of A Holistic Approach to Diagnosis

Understanding the causes and treatments available for depression is crucial in finding relief and leading a healthier life.

A wide variety of factors can affect our mental health and thus must all be addressed to craft an individualized recovery plan that works best for each person. Recognizing how interconnected our minds and bodies are is critical for properly treating depression, as even subtle changes can profoundly affect physical and mental health.

Embracing this holistic approach can provide powerful insights that will help lead those who suffer from depression toward lasting relief and improved overall well-being.

Treatment Options for Those Diagnosed With Depression – Therapies and Drug Treatments Available for Managing Depression

Depression is a severe mental health condition that can have an array of physical, emotional, and social consequences if not properly managed.

Fortunately, there are numerous treatments available to help individuals manage their depression symptoms so they can lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. The right treatment or combination of treatments can make a world of difference in someone’s recovery journey. Here are some of the treatment options available for those diagnosed with depression.


Major depressive disorder is a serious mood disorder that can affect every aspect of life. It is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and requires treatment to manage its symptoms.

The most popular types of therapy for treating depression are cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and psychodynamic therapy.

Finding the proper treatment for depression is essential to managing its symptoms and improving overall well-being.

Different types of therapy work best for different types of people, so it’s important to take the time to explore all available options before committing to any particular course of treatment.

With care and attention, those suffering from depression can find relief from their symptoms and lead healthier lives.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing negative or unhelpful thoughts and behaviors. It is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all interconnected and can affect each other.

CBT works by helping individuals identify and challenge unhelpful thinking patterns, develop new coping skills, and learn how to respond more effectively to difficult situations.

The goal of CBT is to help people become more aware of their thoughts and feelings to gain control over them.

The benefits of CBT include improved mood, better problem-solving skills, increased self-esteem, and improved relationships with others. With the help of a trained therapist, individuals can learn how to manage their emotions and behavior to lead healthier lives.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy

Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on resolving interpersonal problems and improving communication skills. It is based on the idea that our relationships with others play an important role in our mental health and well-being.

IPT works by helping individuals identify, evaluate, and understand their interpersonal issues and develop new coping strategies to manage them.

The purpose of IPT is to assist individuals in managing stress and developing healthier connections with others. Through this type of therapy, people can improve their self-esteem, overcome depression or anxiety, enhance communication skills, and develop meaningful relationships. With the aid of a qualified therapist, those seeking help can learn how to build strong bonds with other people for greater psychological stability.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is a form of talk therapy that focuses on uncovering and understanding the unconscious processes at work in a person’s life. It is based on the theories of Sigmund Freud, who believed that our past experiences shape our current behavior and emotions.

The goal of psychodynamic therapy is to help people gain insight into their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to understand themselves better and make positive changes in their lives. Through this process, individuals can learn to recognize patterns in their behavior, identify underlying causes for their distress, and develop healthier ways of coping with difficult emotions. Psychodynamic therapy can benefit those struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship issues, and other mental health concerns.

Drug Treatments

Drug treatments are a common approach to treating major depressive disorder, with several types available. Drug treatments for depression are highly effective in relieving symptoms and improving the overall quality of life. They also offer a sense of safety and security.

However, patients need to discuss their specific needs with their doctor to determine which drug treatment is right for them. It is essential to take proper care when selecting the right medication for depression, as the wrong type or dosage of medicine can have serious consequences. If not taken carefully, it can make things worse, as the side effects of different medications can be unpredictable.

For example, some antidepressants can cause increased anxiety and agitation in some individuals. People considering starting to take antidepressants should consult with a doctor and take the time to properly evaluate all options to ensure that they are making the best choice for their particular situation.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of medications most commonly prescribed to treat depression. They work by increasing the amount of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps regulate mood, in the brain.

SSRIs block the reabsorption of serotonin into neurons, allowing more serotonin to be available for use in the brain. This increased availability of serotonin can help improve symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions.

SSRIs have fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants and are generally considered safe for long-term use.

Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

Serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) work by inhibiting the reabsorption of two important brain chemicals, serotonin, and norepinephrine.

SNRIs block the reuptake of these neurotransmitters in the brain, which increases their availability in the synaptic cleft. This helps to improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.

SNRIs are similar to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), but they also inhibit the reuptake of norepinephrine. By targeting both serotonin and norepinephrine, SNRIs can provide more effective relief from depression than SSRIs alone.

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are a class of medications used in the management and treatment of severe depression. They work by blocking the reuptake of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which helps to increase their availability in the brain.

This increased availability can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression. TCAs also affect other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, which can further help to improve mood. Additionally, TCAs can help to reduce stress levels and improve sleep quality.

While TCAs are effective for treating depression, they may also cause side effects such as dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, weight gain, and low blood pressure.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are a type of antidepressant medication that works by blocking the activity of monoamine oxidase enzymes. Monoamine oxidase enzymes are responsible for breaking down neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine in the brain.

By blocking these enzymes, MAOIs increase the levels of these neurotransmitters which can help relieve symptoms of depression.

MAOIs also decrease the generation of end products such as hydrogen peroxide, aldehyde, and ammonium which can further help improve mood. MAOIs have been used to treat depression since they were first developed in the 1950s and are still used today to treat treatment-resistant major depression and other psychiatric disorders.


The effects of depression can be devastating and should never be taken lightly. It can rob a person of their emotional capacity, mental clarity, and sense of purpose, making it difficult to function in everyday life. However, with proper treatment it is possible to reclaim these vital elements and live a fulfilling life.

Once a patient has been diagnosed, treatment options may include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, or some combination of these methods – but it’s important to remember that no single approach works for everyone.

To find the best course for recovery and get back on track towards healthy living, each person must develop an individualized plan tailored to their own needs. Ultimately with the right care and support anyone suffering from depression can hope to find relief and embark on a successful journey back to well-being.

Many people struggle to take care of themselves and prioritize their mental health. Yet taking the time to practice healthy lifestyle habits like eating a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and carving out time for oneself can make a world of difference in terms of overall mental well-being.

It’s not always easy, but the effort spent on nourishing your mind and body can pay off greatly regarding mental health. Not only will you feel physically healthier and more alert throughout the day, but you’ll also be better equipped to face the challenges life throws at you with grace, clarity, and courage. So take the time to invest in yourself – you’re worth it!

Once again, it is essential to remember that no singular approach works for everyone suffering from depression—each individual requires their own personalized plan to find relief and reclaim their mental well-being.

Understanding the causes behind depression and available treatments can provide valuable insight into this condition and ultimately lead those who suffer from depression toward a happier life.

If You Believe You Have a Mental Illness, Consult a Professional

If you believe you are suffering from a mental disorder like major depression, we recommend you consult a mental health professional.

At Wellness Road Psychology, we specialize in diagnosing mood disorders and other mental disorders our clients may be suffering from. We can help relieve the symptoms of:

  • Mild or moderate depression
  • Chronic depression
  • Postpartum depression
  • A major depressive episode
  • Sleep disturbance

…and much more!

Contact us today to learn about your treatment options at Wellness Road Psychology.

If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area.

Schedule appointment

Phil Glickman

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Wellness Road Psychology

A leading provider of mental health services, offering a range of evidence-based treatments to help our clients improve their mental wellbeing.

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