Am I sad, a bit low, or do I have depression?
Everyone goes through periods of life where they are not at their happiest, but how can we tell if our feelings are just normal sadness, as opposed to depression?
This depression self test is a handy tool to help you gain more insight into whether you may have depression. The tool can not diagnose depression but can predict the likelihood that you may be suffering from depression.
Mental health professionals have identified risk factors that make people more likely to experience depression in their lifetime. These don’t mean you will get depression, but increase the likelihood. Risk factors for depression include:
- traumatic experiences in childhood or teenage years
- difficulty adjusting to a catastrophic life event like losing a child or life partner
- poor self image or low self regard
- your family having a history of mental illness including depression
- drugs and alcohol addictions or overuse
- difficulty coping with medical issues like cancer, long standing pain or major injury
- a history of having had another mental health disorder (such as anxiety, eating disorder, PTSD and so on)
- a lack of social support
Depression and other mental illnesses are classified in reference manuals developed by leading public health bodies including the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 criteria). Often a clinical interview by a mental health professional is required to make a diagnosis so that other conditions can be ruled out.
The DSM lists nine common symptoms of depression and the severity of each symptom also goes towards a diagnosis.
The nine symptoms of depression listed in the DSM-5 are:
- feeling depressed throughout each day on most or all days
- lack of interest and enjoyment in activities you used to find pleasurable
- trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much
- trouble eating, or eating too much, coupled with weight gain or weight loss
- irritability, restlessness, or agitation
- extreme fatigue
- unwarranted or exaggerated feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- inability to concentrate or make decisions
- suicidal thoughts or actions, or thinking a lot about death and dying
If you have a number of these symptoms for an ongoing period of time and your symptoms are not better explained by other factors like physical illness you may have depression.
Sadness is a normal emotion that we all feel from time to time. It’s a reaction to something happening in your life. Sadness passes with time and it’s temporary. Depression on the other hand is a longer term issue. It may not go away by itself and it may not get better without treatment. Unlike sadness, depression is classified as a mental illness.
Remember that an online self assessment can not provide a definitive diagnosis. A diagnosis requires a visit with a mental health professional who can put your answers into a greater context. They can chat with you rule out any other conditions that may account for your experience such a grief, a physical issue or perhaps a temporary adjustment to a change in circumstance. However a high score on this tool should be a warning sign to seek further help.
Remember that an online self assessment can not provide a definitive diagnosis. If you score highly on this tool it is advisable to meet with a mental health professional who can help put your scores into a greater context.
Note: This tool is provided for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. It is based on one of the best validated assessment tools for depressive severity and symptoms – the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9).
If you are concerned for your wellbeing please contact your local mental health crisis service. This service is often available through your local hospital or via a phone support line. In Australia contact Lifeline on 13 11 44. In other countries you can check for your local service here.