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What Is a Depression Test?

By Valerie Goldberg
Updated Feb 15, 2024
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A depression test is a questionnaire that some therapists and psychiatrists use as an aid in determining the level of depression in a patient. Clinicians may use this test on new patients or to monitor the progress of existing patients. The test is typically given in multiple-choice format and can be administered on a piece of paper or on a computer. The doctor or therapist will score the test when the patient is done to determine the range in which the patient falls. Based on the results, a doctor may choose to alter a patient's medication or increase or decrease the number of therapy sessions the patient attends each month.

There are many different types of questions on a typical depression test. Common question categories on a depression test include sections about fatigue, interest in activities, making decisions, mood and weight change. When a patient reads a question, he or she will have to select a level of feelings from a multiple-choice list. Choices typically range from "never" to "sometimes" to "always." Based on the answers, a trained clinician can use a score sheet to see if a patient is severely depressed, moderately depressed or not depressed at all.

Versions of the depression test exist online. If a person feels he or she is suffering from depression, it shouldn't hurt to take such an online test for personal use, but no one should self-diagnosis himself or herself based on an online depression test. A patient making an appointment with a therapist or a psychiatrist for the first time may want to print out the online test so the counselor can review the answers. This questionnaire may make a good conversation jumping-off point for the specialist and the new patient, but the specialist will likely want to administer his or her own test, too.

Trained professionals use a depression test as just one of many tools in making a diagnosis for a patient. It is important for patients to be honest with their doctors about how they are feeling and any new symptoms they are experiencing. Fighting depression can be a long-term battle and courses of treatment may need to be adjusted with time. When a psychiatrist prescribes an antidepressant medication, he or she may choose to raise or lower the patient's dose as time goes on. A patient should always take the amount of medication prescribed by a doctor and should never alter the dosage based solely on the results of a depression test.

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Discussion Comments

By Eviemae — On Aug 21, 2011

My husband has bipolar disorder. This is a mental illness that causes the victim to have constant extreme emotions going from euphoria to deep depression.

It affects their judgment, and at its worst can actually render them completely unable to make a rational decision of any kind.

However, my husband was given a depression test during one of his depressive episodes. Duh – it showed that he was depressed, and he was put on antidepressants.

Well, since no one bothered to see if he was also manic at times, they didn’t know that he was going to flip out with these meds. He went completely in the opposite direction of depressed, and then began to rapid cycle.

We didn’t know what any of this was then; it’s only in hindsight and after lots of research and therapy that we can place names to the things that happened to him.

After months of torture, we found a doctor who saw the problem and began to rectify the situation.

It took over two years for him to become stabilized. I often wonder if he had been given a more thorough test of some kind and appropriately diagnosed if it wouldn’t have taken considerably less time.

By oscar23 — On Aug 21, 2011

Most people who think of pregnancy and depression only think of postnatal depression. Heck, I had never heard of prenatal depression until I had it myself.

I wasn’t given a depression test at all, but my doctor recognized the symptoms immediately. He also knew that I had indeed been afflicted with postnatal depression with my first child.

The prenatal depression first presented as anxiety symptoms, but quickly evolved into a far more complex mental disease. I actually even became suicidal.

I was lucky enough to have a doctor who recognized my illness and took the necessary actions to intervene early on.

I ended up having a healthy and successful pregnancy, although I was taken out of work at only two and a half months along.

I can’t imagine how things would have turned out if he hadn’t been an experienced doctor with a caring heart. That is why it is so important that there are at least some tools out there, like the depression test, to aid those who might not be so well versed.

It is not a perfect system, that is for sure; but it could mean life or death for someone, too.

By dimpley — On Aug 20, 2011

@summing – While I agree with you for the most part, I also pat psychologist’s on the back for trying to find a tool to aid in appropriately diagnosing depression as opposed to any number of other mental illnesses.

The process is not perfect, that is for certain. However, it is a start. And, as the old saying goes, we have to start somewhere.

I am just glad that an appropriate light is being shown on these types of illnesses at all. It wasn’t very long ago that folks not only thought depression was an imaginary thing, but many of those who did believe in it thought it was of the devil.

I think the fact that we are, as a society, accepting the fact that it is real and not a figment of the depressed mind’s imagination is a great step in the right direction.

By Sunny27 — On Aug 20, 2011

@Bhutan - I think that a clinical depression test is a good idea, but treatment should also include the proper medication along with therapy. Medication alone is not as effective as combining it with therapy because the depressed person has to learn how to cope with their symptoms in a more constructive way.

I think that group therapy is really a good idea especially for teens because this way they can hear the problems that others are having with this depression and realize that they are not alone. Depression can really make people feel isolated but with group therapy I think that people can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I think that parents that suspect that their teens might be depressed can take a free depression test online so that they can see if their kids are suffering from these symptoms.

By ddljohn — On Aug 19, 2011

@summing, @fify-- I understand both of your concerns and I do agree with you on some points.

Depression tests are widely available, on the internet, at counselor offices and so forth. This might be causing some problems and confusion.

But I don't think that this is a good reason to completely ignore depression tests. I think it is our individual responsibility to take our psychological health seriously and seek professional help if we feel that something is wrong.

Depression tests are by no means the doctor, nor the solution to our problems. It is a way that we can look at ourselves subjectively and consider our feelings and physical symptoms. Every person is different and experiences things differently but people who are suffering from the same thing are bound to have similar symptoms. And that's why depression tests work, they help us pinpoint the symptoms that might not be normal or desirable.

Just because we've taken a depression test doesn't mean that we should avoid going to doctors and therapists to get down to the root of the problem and learn what we can do about it.

By Bhutan — On Aug 18, 2011

I read that teenage depression is only treated about 20% of the time. They say that teenagers have to rely on their parents in order to seek help and a lot of times the parents might not be aware of how profound their depression is because some parents dismiss these symptoms as regular teenage angst which it is not.

I think that this is why it is important to have a good relationship with your children because this way you will be able to tell if your teenager is acting out of character and may need a teenage depression test. Sometimes severe depression manifests itself in cutting or a development of eating disorders. I also read that teenage depression can also lead to taking drugs and promiscuity.

By backdraft — On Aug 17, 2011

Is there a specific depression test for teenagers? I know that teen depression manifests in unique ways that are different from adult depression. My daughter has struggled through a lot of her adolescence and I am interested in getting her some professional help. I would like to go to an expert in teenage depression that can give my daughter some focused help.

By fify — On Aug 16, 2011

I have taken several depression tests at counselors until now. I do think that depression tests are a good first step to know where you stand. It's good to recognize that you have (or don't have) the common symptoms associated with depression.

I don't think that it is a good medium for testing other kinds of issues however. For example, after visiting several counselors and psychologists, I was told that I have depression and was sent to my school or family doctor who then prescribed antidepressants to me.

After some time, I had the chance to visit a psychiatrist who diagnosed that I actually have anxiety and not depression. I switched to anxiety medicines which completely resolved my symptoms.

I'm not blaming the depression test for this because I understand that different psychological disorders have similar symptoms. I think the depression test is great for helping to diagnose depression.

It may be the lack of a variety of testing procedures that results in depression tests being used too often and for everything. And when that happens, it may end up in misdiagnosis.

By Ivan83 — On Aug 16, 2011

You really have to be careful when taking an online depression test. A lot of these have absolutely no basis in psychiatric medicine.

I work for an organization that tries to debunk some of the junk psychology that has turned up all over the internet. We maintain an archive of some of the worst examples we have found.

We have dozens of depression tests that have absolutely no clinical value whatsoever. In some cases these can give patients who are wondering about their mental states wildly false diagnosis.

I would caution against ever taking one of these tests but if you feel so inclined please seek out a professional opinion to augment whatever the test may tell you

By summing — On Aug 15, 2011

I tend to be pretty skeptical of psychology in general and one of the big reasons is because of things like the depression test. It seems absolutely preposterous to me that the complexity of the human mind, particularly a mind in a state of turmoil, can be revealed in the form of a multiple choice test. Psychology has a tendency to generalize conditions which could not be more unique, individual and specific. It is an insult to the mind to think of it in any other way.

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