The jury is still out, in many respects, on exactly what depression is and how it should be treated, but clinically speaking it is usually diagnosed in a psychological rather than a physiological manner–that is, via a questionnaire that is given to patients rather than by some method of empirical testing. But The Atlantic reports that a new study has shown that blood tests can diagnose depression–a finding that could change the way depression is both diagnosed and viewed by patients.
The finding, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, describes an experiment in which 36 adults with serious depression were given blood tests screening for nine biomarkers associated with the symptoms of depression. Forty-three non-depressive patients were also tested as a control. In the end, the blood test accurately indicated depression in 33 of 36 of the subjects with depression. It also registered eight false positives in the control group. The findings were repeated in a second experiment where blood tests went 31 for 34 in diagnosing depression among subjects.
The takeaway? The blood test method isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly interesting. With some tweaking doctors might be onto a proper clinical test for depression, but in the meantime one of the paper’s co-authors said at the very least establishing a physiological link to depression will hopefully get patients to look at their depression as a treatable condition rather than something that’s wrong with their minds. More at the Atlantic.
You can get the paper here, but you’ll have to bring your subscription to Molecular Psychiatry back into good standing.