Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/28/2021
No one likes taking tests, but a test that can give you insight into what’s going on with your mental health can be extremely helpful.
You may have lost all of your energy and motivation, your love of life and your desire to do anything but crawl under the covers and hide from the world.
Having validation that there is something wrong with these feelings — and something that can be changed — is the first step in getting you back to your old self.
Depression Tests in A Nutshell
There are several widely used and accepted depression tests screening for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
Depression tests aim to measure the severity of depression criteria, indicating when to seek professional help or when progress has been made during treatment
Depression tests are usually a series of multiple-choice questions that can be completed quickly, in as few as 5 minutes
Depression tests may be self-administered
Depression tests do not take the place of a clinical diagnosis
Clinical depression is a mood disorder, also sometimes referred to as major depressive disorder or MDD.
It’s one of the most common forms of mental illness in the world, and is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, biological and psychological factors.
This means it could be a chemical imbalance in the brain and a job loss or global pandemic that send you into a depressive state.
Some risk factors for depression, or things that could make you more likely to experience depression include: a family or personal history of depression, major life trauma or stressors, and certain illnesses and medications.
It’s believed depression affects some 5% of American adults. But as many as half of cases go undiagnosed and unrecognized.
This indicates a good opportunity for the use of depression screening tests as a method of identifying otherwise undiagnosed depression.
Depression tests online aren’t the only type of depression screening tools. Medical and mental health professionals use depression tests, too.
Referred to as depression assessment instruments, these serve several purposes: to help professionals get an overall sense of whether your experiences qualify for a depression diagnosis, to measure severity of symptoms, and to track changes overtime, while you’re undergoing treatment, for example.
There are several of these diagnostic tests that are accepted as scientifically sound.
The PHQ-9 is a self-administered test that is used to help mental health practitioners diagnose depression as well as monitor the severity of a patient's depression.
The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), for example, consists of 21 multiple choice questions and takes 10 minutes complete.
The Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) has patients rate 20 self-report items on a 4-point scale.
These items are symptoms or common depressive experiences that the test-taker has encountered over the past week, and this test takes about 20-minutes.
Other depression instruments include the EQ-5D, the Montgomery-Asberg DepressioN Rating Scale (MADRS), and the Social Problem-Solving Inventory-Revised (SPSI-RTM).
We tell you all of this to show that depression tests are common and can be extremely useful, even for the folks who diagnose depression for a living.
You can likely find numerous depression screening tools online, and if you’re like most folks, you may want to take a few in order to form some kind of consensus about what they tell you.
But knowing which are worth taking and which are a waste of time can be tricky.
One way to recognize a scientifically sound depression test online is to look for one that is based off of the diagnostic criteria for depression.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) outlines the exact stipulations that must be met before a depression diagnosis is handed down.
A test based on this book would include symptoms out of the DSM, along with a question about how long you’ve been experiencing them.
The DSM-V says in order for a clinical diagnosis of major depressive disorder, a person must have depressed mood or loss of interest in regular activities for at least two weeks, and exhibit at least five of the following symptoms, which affect daily social, work or other functioning.
Those symptoms include:
Depressed mood lasting most of the day
Insomnia or sleeping too much
Loss of interest in pleasure in most or all activities
Weight loss or gain
Agitation or slowed response time
Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
Trouble concentrating and thinking, indecisiveness
Thoughts of death
An online depression screening doesn’t have to list these verbatim, but the important thing is that it’s based on established diagnostic symptoms.
An online depression test may tell you with certainty that you’re suffering from depression, or it may tell you you’re not.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s what you do with that information that stands to make a difference.
Whether the test confirms your depression or causes you to second guess it: If you’re feeling depressed and think something’s not quite right with your mental or emotional health, reach out for help.
No online test can take the place of a diagnosis. Largely because a diagnosis allows you to get treatment.
Depression treatment may include medication and therapy, and you can generally start getting treatment right away.
And you can receive this help from the comfort of home but scheduling an online psychiatry evaluation. Don’t wait for things to get worse before you get help. Take steps to turn things around. Living with depression is no way to live at all.
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