Doctors in the United States and many other countries use a manual of diagnostic criteria drawn from a large body of medical research and clinicians’ experience. It is published by the American Psychiatric Association, and it is called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness, Fourth Edition. The criteria are written somewhat technically for doctors (see Appendix B). Here is an easy-to-use checklist that can help you determine if you are clinically depressed.
Criteria That Doctors Use to Diagnose Major Unipolar Depression
Check each statement that represents the way you have felt over the last two weeks.
1. Have you had a feeling of sadness nearly every day?
2. Have you lost interest or enjoyment in nearly all your activities?
3. Has your appetite changed OR have you lost more than five pounds without trying to diet?
4. Have you had difficulty going to sleep OR are you waking too early?
5. Have your thoughts or behavior slowed so much that other people notice?
6. Have you had low energy OR been fatigued nearly every day?
7. Have you had feelings of worthlessness OR guilt?
8. Have you had difficulty thinking OR concentrating OR making decisions?
9. Have you been thinking of death or suicide, OR have you planned or tried suicide?
Here’s How to Score
Step 1. If you did not check either Question 1 or 2 above, stop you probably do not have unipolar major depression.
Step 2. If you checked five or more of Questions 1-9, go to Step 3. Step 3. If the sum of all these problems is severe enough to interfere with your work, school, family relationships, or social activities, you meet the official criteria for unipolar major depression. Go to a doctor who can evaluate you to determine if you really do have the disorder.
- Why are there so many different names for depression?
- All this information seems overwhelming what can I do to fight all these problems?
- How can I gauge the severity of my depression and understand how it changes over time?
- What should I do if I am feeling suicidal?
- It seems like the way I think is different now that I am depressed. Could this be true?
- Was my depression caused by recent disappointments and failures?
- Is indecisiveness a symptom of depression?
- Why do my thoughts and movements feel like they’ve slowed down?
- Is major depression a medical disease or just a bad attitude?
- What physical symptoms are typical with serious depression?
- Can I take antidepressants to give myself more energy?
- Why do I never seem to get any restful sleep?
- Why do I always binge on junk food and put on weight when I get depressed?
- I can’t seem to eat what’s wrong with my appetite?
- What kind of emotional changes can I expect if my depression grows worse?
- What do people look like when they are depressed?
- Is there any good news about this diagnosis?
- How does depression affect people’s longevity?
- Is there really a Band Aid that takes away depression?
- Will I have to keep taking medications or going to psychotherapy for the rest of my life?