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Blood test can give clues of depression

My doctor diagnosed me with major depression. What is the difference between major depression and a normal sadness? Is there a blood test to determine that I have major depression?

The feeling of sadness is a normal emotion triggered by disappointing situations in our lives and may occur at least briefly every day depending on the circumstances.

Other normal daily emotions include happiness, apathy, anxiety and anger as we react to life experiences. Comparing a feeling of sadness to a major depression is similar to comparing a rain shower to a hurricane; they differ in severity, duration and the impact on everyday activity.

A major depression (or a “clinically significant depression”) involves a persistently sad mood and/or daily lack of enjoyment of activities accompanied by symptoms such as low energy, poor concentration, sleep disturbances, appetite disturbances, low self-esteem, thoughts of death or suicide and difficulty with motivation leading to difficulty with daily activities.

These symptoms must persist like a black cloud over your head daily for at least two weeks to be defined as a major depression, which is now considered to be a medical condition that may be associated with whole-body inflammation.

Based upon this whole-body inflammation that occurs with depression, specific blood tests associated with inflammation may be available in the near future to predict the likelihood of current or future depression.

Several biomarkers (substances in the bloodstream that are associated with specific diseases and conditions) have been linked with depression. Biomarkers are similar to clues left behind at a crime scene; if enough clues are identified, conclusions can be made about who may be implicated in the crime.

If enough biomarkers are discovered in an individual’s bloodstream, conclusions can be made to implicate clinically significant depression.

One analysis of a group of 10 depression biomarkers is in development for the general public to determine a low to high probability of depression.

Other factors associated with elevations of these inflammatory biomarkers include daily lifestyle stress, a sedentary lifestyle, a diet low in omega-3 fatty acids (such as fish oil), a diet high in fructose (a type of sugar), diminished sleep, poverty, an increased waistline and smoking.

Interestingly, the elevation of these inflammatory proteins may precede the development of depression, completing the loop of the vicious cycle of inflammation.

Dr. Jay Fawver practices Mind-Body Medicine with Parkview Physicians Group. Send questions to Terri Richardson at The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802, or email Please put “Ask the Doctor” for the subject line.