dreamstime_m_33927907Though we’ve come a long way in the treatment of mental illness, there still is not consensus on the diagnosis and treatment of even the most common metal illnesses, including depression.

In a recent review of diagnostic tools conducted by Universiteit van Amsterdam, researchers revealed that there is relatively little consistency in how practitioners define and diagnose depression. For example, some diagnostic tools focused specifically on the physical symptoms of depression, such as loss of appetite and insomnia. Other tools asked the patients about their moods and feelings, putting an emphasis on the mental and emotional symptoms of depression. Few diagnostic tools were comprehensive; most were biased toward either physical or emotional symptoms.

Overall the study found that different people would qualify as depressed, or not, based on which diagnostic tool their therapist or psychologist chose to use. This inconsistency does a disservice to those seeking help, who may display a range of problematic symptoms. We need comprehensive and consistent diagnostic tools to get people into the right supportive services.

It is essential that all psychotherapists, particularly those in addiction treatment settings, understand and be able to recognize the symptoms of depression. Research has shown that approximately half of all addicts suffer from a co-occurring psychological disorder, most often anxiety or depression. With such a high rate of occurrence, addiction treatment centers must be prepared to treat the dual-diagnosis client.

How can we quickly identify depression as opposed to sadness or a passing feeling of the blues? Here are six warning signs:

  1. Unwavering Sadness. When sadness lasts for more than two weeks and doesn’t waver significantly, that is a warning sign of depression. This is especially true when there is no overt reason for this sadness. If you’ve just lost a loved one, longer-term sadness is likely part of the grief process. If you are sad for no reason, you should be concerned and seek help.
  2. Lack of interest in activities. If you once loved riding horses or playing with your kids and now you don’t care about those activities, consider depression as an explantion.
  3. On its own, fatigue can indicate dozens and dozens of disorders, but if coupled with other signs from this list, it can be an indicator of depression. Depressed people simply don’t want to do much of anything.
  4. Changes in sleep patterns. Insomnia or needing far too much sleep, in combination with other symptoms, can be a sign of depression.
  5. Depressed individuals often have a short temper and lash out verbally at others, even over small issues.
  6. Changes in eating patterns. Like sleep issues, either overeating or going off food, in conjunction with other symptoms that define depression, can indicate depression.

The most important take away you should know about depression is that you know yourself – your mind and body. If you feel like you’re “off” in some way, seek help and don’t take “no” for an answer. There are great, non-pharmaceutical tools that help most people who suffer with depression overcome their symptoms and improve their quality of life.