Clinical depression - Diagnosis 

Diagnosing clinical depression 


Depression is a serious illness. It is very different from the common experience of feeling unhappy, miserable or fed up for a short period of time. In this video, psychiatrist Dr Cosmo Hallstrom explains the disorder.

Media last reviewed: 16/09/2013

Next review due: 16/09/2015

If you experience symptoms of depression for most of the day, every day for more than two weeks, you should seek help from your GP.

It is especially important to speak to your GP if you experience:

  • symptoms of depression that are not improving
  • your mood affects your work, other interests, and relationships with your family and friends
  • thoughts of suicide or self-harm

Sometimes, when people are depressed they find it hard to imagine that treatment can actually help. But the sooner you seek treatment, the sooner your depression will lift.

There are no physical tests for depression, though your GP may examine you and do some urine or blood tests to rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms, such as an underactive thyroid.

The main way in which your GP will tell if you have depression is by asking you lots of questions about your general health and how the way you are feeling is affecting you mentally and physically.

Try to be as open as you can be with the doctor. Describing your symptoms and how they are affecting you will really help your GP understand if you have depression and how severe it is.

Read more about the symptoms of depression.

Any discussion you have with your GP will be confidential. Your GP will only ever break this rule if there's a significant risk of harm to either yourself or others, and if informing a family member or carer would reduce that risk.

Find out about the treatments you may be offered for depression.

Page last reviewed: 19/08/2014

Next review due: 19/08/2016


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The 20 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

freddokid said on 02 September 2013

im 16, my friends think i have depression. i cry mostly every night. i feel down and a smile is rare. i dont have a good enough relationshipbwith my parents to tell them. i dont know whether i should go to my doctor because im really scared.

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helping_person said on 29 August 2013

hayleyelizabeth0925, I am not a medical doctor nor do i work for the NHS, but I am a retired social worker. Your thoughts are understandable, and your GP can help. The doctor will know what to ask you, and if you just say what you said in your post here the GP will know what to do. Good luck, you aren't being stupid. Well done.

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hayleyelizabeth0925 said on 16 August 2013

I feel like i may have depression, but i don't know what to say to the doctors? I feel stupid at the thought of having to get help...? Any suggestions?

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Strawbiepie said on 25 July 2013

I'm 14, most people wouldn't understand why I'm depressed, but I am. I have suicidal thoughts most of the day, I self harm, I almost fall asleep in lessons because I wake up frequently in the early morning. My parents don't understand, they don't see what's wrong, I can't talk to them. I can't talk to anyone and its getting worse. I can't cope, I'm scared that my family will be disappointed in me. I've only come here because I can't go anywhere else. I need help but I'm too scared to get it. I can't trust anyone at school because they'll tell my parents, I can't tell my friends because they don't care and they'll just tell people. I have nobody. I've felt like this for about a year but its only getting worse.

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Bekkah said on 03 June 2013

im 16 and i don't feel like myself anymore. i was diagnosed with psoriasis two years ago and the red patches have increased in size and the amount over the couple of years on my legs. i didn't realise how much it affected me mentally till recently knowing that summer holidays are coming up and after having a huge breakdown talking about being self concious with my two closest friends. i feel iscolated from my friends as i cant wear pretty dresses, shorts or a skirt because i feel so ugly and unattractive in comparison. I also feel alone as i feel like i can't go to my parents as they would think im being stupid and i now feel distant from my friends as i make excuses not to go out with them because its a warm day and i don't want to embarress myself by wearing something that reveals it and scared of asked what is wrong with me as i don't have an answer to why i look ugly. i have trouble falling asleep and i wake up frequently during the night and leaving me feeling tired, run down and achy throughout the day. I've also become very moody and tick easily around friends and family. i find myself crying when thinking about my psoriasis or always in a emotional manner. i feel like i cant remember when i genuinely felt happy or feeling close to my family/friends or feeling like i was important to them or confident in myself or that i can pass my exams and further on in the future. as the weather is hottening up i've started to hate the way i am and who i am more and more and i will become upset as i realise that my skin problem will never go and that i can't hide it as easily as i can in the winter. and that i always will be me. i just want to be my old self again but i feel like im in the dark and it's just getting worse and i feel like im slowly loosing myself. i don't know how to stop it as im scared to tell my parents and i wouldn't feel comfortable telling them either but i don't know how to ask for help at my doctors without feeling stupid or selfish. im stuck.

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Izzie96 said on 27 February 2013

If only getting a diagnosis were that simple, then I could maybe get some help. I've been in and out of councelling for several year now and to see my GP on a few occasions with progessively worse symptoms, to the extent that I lost my place in college because I was incapable of motivating myself to do anything, at all.
I went to the doctor last May, after an incident of self harm and the death of a family member and I was refered to a councilling service. Not only was it 7 months on before I recieved the letter regarding the referal, I went to the initial session, then spent more than a month waiting for the letter back from them. They'd closed the case on me and left me to deal with myself.
Maybe they thought the state I'm in wasn't of particular importance but I just can't see that with the remarks I've have from friends and family and the situation I'm in because of my mental state.
I give up.

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Aon8131 said on 21 July 2012

Hi hope someone can help. Am feeling really low at the minute and don't know whether I should see my gp for depression or not. I have spent the whole of this year feeling low after problems in my relationship. The relationship finally ended for the third time two weeks ago but we both have a hobby in common. I saw him last night with someone else and I just fell apart. I wish I could talk with him and tell him how I feel but know it wont help as he has already switched off to the situation. I finally thought I was moving forward and on with my life and I feel worse than ever now. I feel I am a burden on my friends and family and that no-one truly understands how I am feeling. It feels like such a simple thing and not something that should cause depression compared to what some people are going through. I just don't know where to turn at the minute. Any advice would be appreciated thanks.

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rosler28 said on 12 May 2012

Hi i'm 39 years old , and think i may be suffering from depression , i have nearly all the symptons but dont know how to go about getting help . Do i just book a G.P.'s appointment or do i need to go the hospital ??? I think i've had it for a few years and its ruining my life , can anyone point me in the right direction ???

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Blue dawn said on 26 January 2012

I feel really down at the moment. I keep crying and I'm really tired most of the time. I've got lots of work to do for exams, my parents are divorcing and I'm moving house for the first time. My parents think I'm overworking. I don't know how to cope as I'm already seeing a councillor at school and I'm scared to talk about how I feel. I've tried writing down how I feel but it didn't help. I'm really worried because I've got important exams soon (GCSEs) and I don't want it to affect my results. Has anyone else had a situation like this and what did you do?

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rabbitrun123 said on 15 November 2011

I am a 49 year old married for the 2nd time and having problems in this marriage. I get very down and find it a struggle sometimes to think of reasons for wanting to live. Everyone thinks i am a happy go lucky sort but the last couple fo weeks i have had difficulty hiding my depression. I live with a chronic depressive. I never know when i am going to get my hat shot at to coin a phrase when i come home and he has had a bad day.

I took up running and it eases it when i do it but i can't run all day !!!!!

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wreiubfaer said on 25 July 2011

if life was so simple eh,i dont think doctors or anyone will treat me with any respect i will be laughed out of the place and told to stop being a one does understand no matter who they are,wow you went to college n uni now ur a doc and can tell me how i feel great world aint it.

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CJ07 said on 05 June 2011

I recently had a dream that my boyfriend of 2 and a half years died and ever since then I haven't been myself. I just want to cry and I feel paranoid. I get worried when I'm not with him that something might happen. I've had very little sleep, I find it hard to get to sleep but I wake up early and don't feel as if I need to go back to sleep. I feel like I've done something wrong. I'm too worried to go and see my doctor because last time I went my mum told him that basically she thinks I might have depression, so he booked me an appointment with a therapist type of person but she was useless. I need advice because I feel like I'm going mad..

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Cognitive said on 05 June 2011

Hello, i am a 17 year old student. I used to be a happy, fairly shy, however confident with socialising around children my age person whilst in my primary school years. But, as soon as i started year 7 i gradually started to become somewhat scared, anxious and nervous around people from my school. At the moment i would describe myself as lonely, sad, upset and the word emphasising my most deepest feeling is depressed. I live with my mom, my dad divorced my mom before i was even born and have never met him. I never felt i had been missing anything while still young in primary school, but now have actually realised that i'm not normal. i feel materially deprived as a result of lacking support from my dad, ang always get the feeling of guilt that if wasnt born then my mom would be happier. i dont have a very good relationship with my mother which is awful as i get even more depressed because i feel i have no one and nothing to live for. I do have cousins who again when i was younger would consisder my self of having a moderate relationship with, but now is not the case. I feel that they dislike me, or disaprove of me or something. I always get the feeling that they are the bad ones who always leave me out, dont speak with me ect. But i know that this isnt the case and feel hopeless and awful about myself. I begin to get really teary and cry when im alone at night. I only have a good, joking, fun relationship with one of my cousin and about 2 friends from school. i dont understand why i cant be constant with my mood/personality and just be normal around everyone and not just the minority of people in my life. I have not talked to anyone about this, and it doesnt seem very obvious to me that anyone at all has noticed this change and the fact that i am unhappy and depressed. i would talk to my mom but im scared she might see it as an excuse of me not wanting to socialise because in lazy of something and wont understand. I really dont want to feel like this for the rest of

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AllyBC said on 19 April 2011

Bea - I'm really sorry to hear that you are feeling upset. I think it's really important that you talk to an adult you trust, like your parents or a teacher you get on well with. Maybe try writing how your feeling down so that if you get upset when you try to talk about it, you can read what you've written, or show it to the person you are talking to. I hope that helps.

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5thBeatle said on 04 February 2011

hi, im 12 years old i dont know if I have depression or not but Im feeling really upset, Im scared my Best friend secretly resents me and on of my friends suddnely hates me. Now she leaves me out of everything and wont let me come with her and some of my other friends when we go out. I feel really tearfull at school and everyone is starting to say I look upset. I want to tell them but Im too scared. I keep having dizzy spells and horrbile dreams a lot. I want to get help but im scared to tell my parents, they probly wont belive me. Please help.

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Helper51 said on 20 September 2010

Dear Gertlush,
I so know how you feel. It is like there is no light at the end of the tunnel and then if there is it is the light on the front of the oncoming train! But I have been really helped by a number of things. First I can strongly recommend Jo Swinneys website. Also seeing someone at your local health centre helps. I got 4 sessions of free counselling on the NHS which was really brilliant. Another thing that helped me was to find an active hobby, even walking a dog or gardening is of some help. The important thing is to know that there is a better life ahead and whilst you may still go down and up and down you will come out of this and be stronger.
If I can help any more please reply and I will try.

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gertlush said on 18 September 2010

I was a happy go-lucky person who everyone used to love being around until May when i didnt get a promotion i had worked hard for at work. I've had lots of sad things happen to me in my life and the worse was when I lost a baby at 20 weeks pregnant when I was 21. I always bounced back from things pretty quickly but the job situation seemed to be the final straw in a long chain of events. I'm now very sad and have completely lost my sparkle. I struggle to get up for work in the morning and feel life has passed me by. I'm 37, single and still have no children and am so sad that I probably never will. I just want to be me again and stop crying all the time and am sick of being told to pull myself together (i wish it was that easy). I feel like I've been rejected by life and don't think I could face another rejection. Does anyone else on here feel this way?

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Paudex said on 18 August 2010

I've been feeling very low for a long time now. I went to see my GP and was told to read a leaflet and basically 'get a grip'. My trip to the GP was a terrible experience and has made me feel even worse than before. I will go and see a different GP next time but still feel hurt by the last experience.

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charliesmumjules said on 07 April 2010

OMG you are feeling exactly the same as me!
I am a teacher who up until feb half term felt fine and was teaching four days a week and running round after my 2 year old little boy. i thought the post natal depression was behind me and I was just getting on with life.

However then everything crashed and I now am unable to do anything. I can't go out of the house on my own, i can't drive and I can't see anyway to get back into school let alone stand in front of a class.

If I do go out with my husband or mum I have to deal with panic attacks in shops and I can't eat in public any more.

However, I am taking medication (for 6 weeks now) and hopefully start CBT sessions in 2 weeks time and I just want to get back to normality and get back to teaching and living my life properly.

It would be great to get in touch with you if that is possible.

Charliesmum jules

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HappyMoo said on 27 March 2010

I am a teacher, I would love to get back to work and feel 'normal' again! I am struggling to look after my own children let alone a class of 30! I can't motivate myself or my own children. I have developed anxiety since my 'breakdown' 4months ago and feel like a completely different person. I can't even go to the shops on my own.
I am on medication but just want to get back to normality again!
Any teachers out there? Or ex teachers?

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