Diagnosing a Depressive Episode

Marcia Purse Health Guide
  • Studies have shown that most people with bipolar disorder have significantly more depressive episodes than manic or hypomanic. Here's what goes into a clinical diagnosis of a major depressive episode:

     

    Criterion A
    First, during a two-week period, you're either feeling depressed, have lost interest or pleasure in most activities, or both, nearly every day.

     

    Then, during the same two-week period, and nearly every day, you also have 4-5 more of the following symptoms (you have to have at least five total, including one or both of the first two above):

    • Significant weight gain or loss and/or significant changes in appetite.
    • Insomnia, or you are sleeping too much.
    • Agitated or slowed-down movements that other people could see.
    • Fatigue or loss of energy.
    • Feelings of worthlessness or exaggerated/inappropriate guilt.
    • You find it tough to concentrate and/or have great trouble making decisions.
    • You think about death, imagine what it would like to be dead, make a plan for suicide, or attempt suicide.

    Criterion B
    Medical or drug-related causes aren't causing the symptoms.

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    Criterion C
    The symptoms are causing you a lot of distress or make it very hard for you to function in daily activities like work.

     

    You may have other symptoms as well, but these are the officially listed symptoms that are considered when a doctor makes a diagnosis of a major depressive episode.

     

    How to Help Get the Right Diagnosis

    Make sure your doctor knows all the drugs you are taking, including over-the-counter medications, herbal treatments (even herbal teas), supplements and yes, even illegal drugs. If you aren't honest with your doctor, you could be diagnosed incorrectly and get wrong or even dangerous treatment.

     

    Your doctor should have your thyroid and blood sugar checked at a minimum before prescribing medication for depression. Imbalances in either of these can cause symptoms very similar to a major depressive episode. If these tests aren't ordered, request them.

     

Published On: May 29, 2010