There are many different tests that can be used to diagnose depression, however, completing this test will not give you a diagnosis – you should always visit your GP to get a diagnosis. It is likely that your doctor will ask you questions from these tests to decide on what they believe you condition is, but doctors will take a lot more into account than what your answers imply.
The PHQ-9 questionnaire is commonly used to help doctors understand the severity of depression. It asks you to consider the past two weeks to answer each question as not at all; several days; more than half the days and nearly everyday.
How to complete the test
SCORING THE TEST: Answer every question and note down the number of points of statement that most accurately describes you.
- Not at all = 0 points
- Several days = 1 point
- More than half the days = 2 points
- Nearly everyday = 3 points
- Little pleasure or interest in doing things
- Feeling down, depressed or hopeless
- Trouble falling/ staying asleep or sleeping too much
- Feeling tired or having little energy
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Feeling bad about yourself or that you are a failure or have let yourself/ family down
- Trouble concentrating e.g. watching TV or reading
- Moving so slowly that other people notice or being very restless and fidgety
- Thoughts that you would be better off dead or hurting yourself in some way
After answering these questions, add up your points to give you a total score. Whatever category your score falls in describes the state of your depression:
- A score under 5 does not indicate depression
- 5-9 = mild depression
- 10-14 = moderate
- 15-19 = moderately severe
- 20-27 = severe
You may find that completing this test with someone close to you may be beneficial as you may not notice your fatigue, decline in appetite or being restless. If your score is over 10 points then you should see your GP, however, if it is under and you still feel uneasy make an appointment to double check! Better safe than sorry.
Why take the test?
When I first went to the doctors, my doctor went through this questionnaire with me and it shocked me to see I was severely depressed. I am the type of person that needs evidence to proof something and numbers to quantify something, therefore seeing this result was incredible. I had obviously known that I wasn’t feeling right but my depression being proven reinforced the crazy reality that had become my life and I was in disbelief.
When you are dealing with such a stigmatised illness such as depression, it is very easy to deny how you are feeling. Additionally, as the portrayal of mental illness in the media is so exaggerated and dramatised it is normal to believe you could never be suffering. But by taking this test, it will let you know if you have any cause for concern and if so arrange an appointment with your GP immediately.
It’s important to note that not all doctors will use this exact test; there are many different tests but it is up to the doctor’s personal preference!
If you have been feeling down, this test may validate your feelings or on the other hand let you know that you’ve just had a hard few weeks. The questions are reassuring as they are measuring subtle signs such as lack of sleeping or overeating – this may be surprising to some as mental illness is tremendously stereotyped. You might have been expecting much more extreme behavioural signs, but that is of a result of misconceptions in society.
You might find completing this test every two weeks to be very useful as you will be able to see how the severity of your depression changes over time. By tracking your depression you might be able to see correlations which indicate a pattern with your low mood – which could be instrumental in discovering what is contributing to your condition. It might also be helpful to see if you are recovering well from your depression or if you could be heading for relapse – it is always much easier to catch this early.
I hope this test sheds some light on the symptoms of depression and how it is diagnosed. If you aren’t feeling yourself, I urge you to see your doctor even if you think you are fine – there is no harm in being cautious. I take this test regularly to get an idea of how I’m doing and it’s important not to get disheartened if you have a set back as it is normal – healing is not linear.
ONCE YOU’VE BEEN IN THE DARK,
YOU APPRECIATE EVERYTHING THAT SHINES