Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

These exams and tests can help rule out other problems that could be causing your symptoms, pinpoint a diagnosis and check for any related complications:

  • Physical exam. Your doctor may do a physical exam and ask in-depth questions about your health to help determine what may be causing your depression. In some cases, depression may be linked to an underlying physical health problem.
  • Lab tests. For example, your doctor may do a blood test called a complete blood count (CBC) or test your thyroid to make sure it's functioning properly.
  • Psychological evaluation. To check for signs of depression, your doctor or mental health provider will talk to you about your symptoms, thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns. Your doctor may have you fill out a written questionnaire to help answer these questions.

Diagnostic criteria for atypical depression

To be diagnosed with atypical depression, you must meet the symptom criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

For a diagnosis of atypical depression, you must first meet the general DSM criteria for major depression — such as feeling down most of the day and losing interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed. You'll also need to meet other specific criteria for atypical depression.

For a diagnosis of atypical depression you must have this symptom:

  • Depression that temporarily lifts when you're cheered up by positive events

In addition, you must have at least two of these symptoms for diagnosis:

  • Gaining weight or having a noticeable increase in appetite
  • Sleeping too much
  • Being sensitive to rejection by others so that it affects your work or relationships
  • Having a heavy feeling in your arms and legs

Atypical depression has a specific definition as a diagnosable condition. But some doctors and mental health providers use the term more loosely. Ask for a definition if it isn't clear what your doctor or mental health provider means when he or she says "atypical depression."

Sept. 20, 2012