Are you depressed? If you are bothered by fleeting feelings of sadness, well, that is part of life. We are all affected by the little highs and lows that result from winters that last too long or a week when nothing goes right. But when you experience more severe feelings of sadness, and they last for more than two weeks, is it a good idea to ask your doctor to give you a depression test.

Depression is not uncommon in U.S. society. Approximately 20.9 million adults or 9.5 percent of the population age 18 or older will experience depression in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Before making a diagnosis of depression, doctors will judge the severity of a patient’s symptoms, how many symptoms one has and how long they have experienced those symptoms. The National Institute of Mental Health published a list of a number of symptoms that medical professionals look for when they are trying to make a diagnosis of depression for a patient. Doctors base their diagnosis based on the results of a depression test that reveals the symptoms on this list as well as other factors.

There are several things you should consider when deciding whether you need to receive a depression test. Has someone in your family ever suffered from serious depression? Depression can be a hereditary condition. Mental health experts estimate that between 40 and 70 percent of depression cases are hereditary. This means that if a parent, grandparent, sibling or other close relative has ever suffered from depression, you are more likely to experience depression also, though this doesn’t mean you will definitely ever become depressed.

Have you experienced a traumatic or significantly stressful event in your life recently? If you are having a hard time getting over such an event, you may want to have a depression test. Events such as the death of a loved one, or an event as stressful as divorce has the potential to trigger a severe depression, especially if you have family history of depression, but even if you don’t.

Are you a woman? Women are more likely than men to become depressed but will often not receive a depression test because their symptoms are overlooked. Approximately 25 percent of all women experience symptoms of depression that are severe enough to require treatment. Women who have just given birth or who are nearing or have already experienced menopause are more likely to experience depression and should be particularly aware of their health at those times.

Do you have persistent feelings of severe sadness? Doctors giving a depression test will want to know if your have experienced profound helplessness, pessimism, worthlessness, anxiety, fatigue and irritability, or have entertained thoughts of suicide.

Are you having trouble sleeping? The symptoms a doctor will look for when giving a patient a depression test include whether the patient is suffering from insomnia, having difficulty sleeping through the night, wake up during the night and can’t return to sleep, oversleeping in the morning or sleeping too much during the day.

Are you experience significant aches and pains that won’t go away? While most people think that depression is characterized only by mood swings and feelings of sadness, chronic pain is also a symptom of depression and part of a medical depression test. Digestive disorders or persistent headaches or other chronic pain that isn’t caused by some other illness and doesn’t respond to treatment after two weeks could be a sign of depression.

If you have experienced several of these symptoms for more than two weeks, it is in your best interest to see your health care provider for a depression test to determine if you require treatment.