There are several other diseases or conditions which mimic depression; a differential diagnosis by a qualified professional is required to distinguish between the symptoms of a depressive disorder and other possible diagnoses.
Below is a list of some of the conditions that share many similarities with depression.
Adjustment disorder is a depression with a clearly identified precipitating event.
In bipolar disorder, major depression is accompanied by or interspersed with one or more manic, hypomanic, or mixed episodes.
Substance/Medication or Medical Illness-associated
Depressive symptoms fall short of diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder due to concurrent substance use, medication side effects, or somatic medical illness, or for other specifiable or unspecifiable reasons.
Grief Reaction (Bereavement Disorder)
Depressive symptoms may be transiently present in normal grief. Symptoms more consistent with depression include inappropriate guilt regarding actions surrounding death of the loved one, persistent thoughts of death (survivor’s feelings that s/he would be better off dead or should have died with the deceased person are considered a normal part of grief), morbid preoccupation with worthlessness, marked psychomotor retardation, prolonged and marked functional impairment, and hallucinations. Transiently hearing the voice of, or seeing the deceased person, is considered within normal limits of bereavement.
Dementia is characterised by cognitive (memory) changes (not just mood), psychiatric symptoms, personality changes, problem behaviours, and changes in day-to-day functioning.
Anxiety disorders frequently occur along with depression. Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterised by excessive worry, muscular tension, fatigue, autonomic hyperactivity, and increased vigilance; patients with anxious depression may appear to have GAD. Specific anxiety disorders (ie panic disorder, social phobia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) should also be considered.
Patients often may complain of insomnia, nightmares, poor memory, and nervousness which turn out to be directly related to alcohol abuse, rather than indicative of a depressive disorder.
Accurate diagnosis by a mental health professional – such as a clinical psychologist – is essential for effective treatment of depression and similar disorders.
Author: Dr David Wells, B Psych (Hons), Dip Prof Couns, D Psych (Clin Geropsychology).
David is a Clinical Psychologist, with a keen interest in couples counselling. He strives to provide a safe environment for his clients to explore their issues and, with assistance, develop new techniques which will help them change their unproductive behaviours. The aim is to have a happier life that assists people reach their relationship, personal and life goals.
Dr David Wells is currently on extended leave. If you would like to book with an alternative clinician with similar expertise, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.