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Depression

Clinical Tests to Confirm Depression

08/20/2007

Question:

Are there any clinical tests currently being developed to absolutely diagnose depression? Some people need positive, clinical evidence of depression before they get help. I know someone who`s probably depressed but refuses to seek treatment, stating there are no "real tests" to prove it. And if there are no tests being developed that can absolutely prove clinical depression, why not? We need a simple blood or urine test, please!

Answer:

Just as there is no simple blood or urine tests for most forms of heart disease, I doubt we will ever have a simple blood or urine test for most types of depressive disorders. However, there are good imaging tests for heart disease, such as heart catheterizations and exercise stress tests. Within five years clinicians will be using good brain imaging tests to diagnose the more severe kinds of depression. They are the focus of intense research now, but are still too expensive and unreliable for use in clinical practice. Until then, we should rely on experienced clinicians to make the diagnosis through history and careful examination of current symptoms. One persuasive proof of depression comes with the relief of the distress through antidepressant treatment, either counseling or medications. Many people who recover this way understand better how depression had been running their lives.

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Response by:

Lawson  Wulsin, MD Lawson Wulsin, MD
Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine, Training Director of the Family Medicine Psychiatry Residency Program
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati