Depression Test: What Can It Tell You?

If you’ve been experiencing depression symptoms, a number of easy self-tests can help put you on the road to wellness. And now, a blood test can help lead physicians to the right depression medication for you.

depression test

The thought process involved in taking a depression test (see links in story) can help us determine whether we're just "down in the dumps"—or need to reach out for help.

© Hans Slegers |

If you’ve been feeling down in the dumps for a while, and especially if you have thoughts of suicide, it’s time to visit your doctor or a mental health care professional. (If you’re feeling really hopeless, don’t hesitate to visit your nearest emergency room or urgent care center.) Most of us do hit periods of feeling “blue.” If you find yourself in that state, you might consider taking a simple depression test.

In March 2017, research at UT Southwestern Medical Center revealed blood tests as a step in treatment of depression. “For the first time,” reported Science Daily, “doctors can determine which medication is more likely to help a patient overcome depression, according to research that pushes the medical field beyond what has essentially been a guessing game of prescribing antidepressants.”

The research demonstrated that a simple finger-prick blood test measuring C-reactive protein (DRP) can lead doctors to the medication “more likely to work” than others. “Utilizing this test in clinical visits could lead to a significant boost in the success rate of depressed patients who commonly struggle to find effective treatments,” according to the report.

Yet when we think of the term “depression test,” we think first of questionnaire-type exercises that help physicians get a handle on whether we’re depressed—and how severe the depression may be. As such, several depression test options are available, some designed to be filled out privately, others that are meant to be filled out by a health care professional working with you.

Some tests can help indicate whether or not you’re likely to suffer from depression, while others can help determine how severe your depression is—or whether you might suffer from a specific type of depression, such as bipolar disorder or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Which depression test might work for you?

At-Home Depression Test

Have you asked yourself, “Am I depressed?” If so, try this simple self-test (click on link):

Free Depression Test

If you check off at least five items on this list and you’ve been experiencing these symptoms for at least two weeks, that’s a sign of depression.

Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale

Another way to figure out whether your feelings are normal, a matter of being “down in the dumps,” or a sign that something more serious might be going on is to take the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale test. Click here to access the test:

Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale

The Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale is designed to help identify not only the presence of depression but also how severe that depression may be. If you score over 50 in this test, you should see a health care professional. Consider taking your results with you to your appointment to show your doctor.

(Keep in mind that this or any rating scale cannot diagnose depression, which is why it’s so important to have a full clinical evaluation. That said, rating scales can be helpful for assessing how severe your depression is at any given point, and then evaluating how well you’re responding to your treatment, whether it involves medications, psychology, meditation, exercise, or watchful waiting.)

Depression Test Options

When you visit your healthcare professional for suspected depression, he or she might order several additional tests. As mentioned above, a blood test may be in order—one that can reveal whether you’re suffering from a condition other than depression that might actually be contributing to your depression. For example, the following blood tests can detect medical conditions that can cause depression symptoms:

  • Levels of hormones, such as thyroid hormone
  • Infection, such as Lyme disease or HIV
  • Levels of medications or illicit drugs
  • Blood sugar (glucose) levels
  • Liver and kidney function tests
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Levels of vitamins and minerals such as B12, folate, calcium, and vitamin D
  • Test for inflammatory problems such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)

Less commonly, people with symptoms of depression may be given brain scans, cardiovascular testing, neuropsychological testing, or a sleep study to rule out diseases that may mimic or contribute to depression.

For further reading:

Originally posted in May 2016 and updated.

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Alison Palkhivala

Alison Palkhivala is an award-winning writer and journalist specializing in lifestyle, nutrition, health, and medicine. She has authored the Belvoir special report Overcoming Depression and the University Health News book … Read More

View all posts by Alison Palkhivala

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