A reader asks:

 How do I know if I am suffering from depression or am only having a long mood swing?


From Mood Swings to Depression

The two are not mutually exclusive. If the mood swing is accompanied by certain other symptoms — which might include change in appetite and sleep, for example — and if it has lasted at least two weeks, clinical depression is a distinct possibility. For an initial self-assessment, use the Auto PIDS questionnaire at //www.cet.org/assessment/. Part 1 of the Auto PIDS is designed to determine whether any mood swings you have had in the past year, up to the present, might meet diagnostic criteria for a major depressive episode. (Parts 2-4 assess seasonality of mood swings, which may or may not be relevant in your case.)

If Depressed, Get Help

After you complete the Auto PIDS, you will receive immediate personalized feedback, interpreting your scores and itemizing your responses. The feedback advises whether it is important for you to see a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychiatric social worker for formal diagnosis and treatment. (Your GP also might be able to assist here, although, in general, GPs have less experience with this type of problem and less time to deal with it, so there is a possibility you will be quickly prescribed an antidepressant when it might not be indicated.) If you suspect you are currently experiencing a depressive episode, we suggest that you print out both the Auto PIDS feedback and itemization forms to show your doctor to get the discussion rolling.