Some people affected by major depression — one of the world’s most common mental health issues — also develop diagnosable symptoms of psychosis, a problem more commonly associated with schizophrenia. The overlapping of these symptoms is sometimes referred to as psychotic depression or psychosis depression. Doctors use a number of methods to test for the presence of this highly damaging mental state.

Essentials of Major Depression

People with major depression experience a range of symptoms that seriously diminish their sense of well-being and ability to function in daily life. Examples of the most common symptoms include:

  • A “down” or depressed mood that’s present most or all of the time
  • Worthlessness, guilt and other negative emotional states
  • Altered weight levels
  • Altered sleeping patterns
  • Fatigue, and
  • Altered memory function and mental clarity

To receive a diagnosis, you must have at least five specific symptoms that last for two weeks or longer, either on one occasion or on recurring occasions over time.

Essentials of Psychosis

Psychosis is centered on two groups of symptoms: hallucinations and delusional (fantastic or unrealistic) beliefs or thought patterns. Hallucinations can affect any one of your five senses, or multiple senses at the same time. Delusions appear coherent to the affected person, but seem clearly false or inaccurate from an outside perspective. In many cases, they involve feelings of paranoia toward institutions or other people. In addition to these core issues, a person affected by psychosis may experience a form of aimless body movement called psychomotor agitation, or an unusual lack of body movement called psychomotor retardation.

Tests for Psychotic Depression

Doctors refer to psychotic depression or psychosis depression as major depression with psychotic features. They typically use a combined approach to detect the presence of this condition. The main methods used include:

  • A physical examination
  • A detailed medical history intended to reveal past problems, including past episodes of depression and/or psychosis, and
  • Interviews and questionnaires designed to reveal the presence of current depression and psychosis symptoms

In some cases, your doctor may follow up these primary diagnostic tests with other procedures such as urine testing, blood testing or brain scans. As a rule, these procedures are designed to detect the presence of physical health problems that could act as underlying causes of your mental/psychological symptoms.


U.S. National Library of Medicine – MedlinePlus: Major Depression with Psychotic Features

National Health Service: Psychotic Depression


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