Depression Screening Advised for All Adults
By Elizabeth Smoots, MD
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for depression in adults. What does this mean for you? The next time you have a doctor's appointment, you may be asked questions about your mental health.
Scope of the Problem
We have known for years that depression is a big problem. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the US. In a given year, millions of Americans will be diagnosed with a mood disorder (major depressive, dysthymic, or bipolar disorder).
A number of people with the disorder do not even know they have it. Depression is often disguised by other problems. And, though the stigma tied to the disorder is easing, many who are affected still go undetected and untreated.
Screening Advice TOP
The USPSTF urges primary care doctors to screen all adult patients for signs of depression and give them appropriate treatment and follow up care.
Depression Questions TOP
According to USPSTF, the following two questions are a good place to start:
If your answer is “yes” to either question, contact your primary care doctor for an evaluation. Your doctor may advise completing a more in-depth questionnaire or having a thorough check-up.
Risks for Depression TOP
Research suggests depression comes from an imbalance of certain brain hormones. The disorder is more common in people who inherit a tendency for depression or are exposed to certain environmental triggers. Factors that can increase your chance of developing depression include:
If you suspect you suffer from depression, your doctor can make a diagnosis after a complete exam. The diagnosis requires having at least five symptoms for more than two weeks that are severe enough to interfere with your daily routine. The symptoms of depression include the following:
*Either the first or second symptom on this list must be present for a diagnosis of depression.
Your doctor will also make sure that your symptoms are not being caused by other psychiatric or medical conditions.
Effective Treatment TOP
Depression is very treatable. Research has shown that antidepressant drugs and counseling—alone or in combination—are effective in combating the disorder. However, the combination of "talk-therapy" and "drug therapy" may be more effective than either alone. Alternative treatments, such as St. John's wort, are also being studied. And adjusting your lifestyle to include more exercise and social activities may help, as well.
You are encouraged to talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your mental health. If you have thoughts of death or suicide, call your doctor right away. With better screening and medical care, the future looks brighter for adults with depression.
American Psychiatric Association
National Institute of Mental Health
Canadian Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
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Screening for depression in adult. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force website. Available at: http://www.uspreve.... Published December 2009. Accessed July 23, 2012.
The numbers count: Mental disorders in America. National Institutes of Public Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.ni... . Updated June 2008. Accessed July 11, 2012.
US Preventive Services Task Force now finds sufficient evidence to recommend screening adults for depression [press release]. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. May 20, 2002.
US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for depression in adults: Summary of the evidence. Ann Int Med. 2002;136:765-776.
US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for depression: Recommendations and rationale. Ann Int Med . 2002;136:760-764.
Last reviewed July 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 7/23/2012