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
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, over millions of Americans have a mood disorder (major depressive, dysthymic, or bipolar disorder). Depression decreases quality of life, increases healthcare costs, and contributes to billions of dollars in lost workdays per year.
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.
The USPSTF urges primary care doctors to screen all adult patients for signs of depression and give them appropriate treatment and follow up care.
According to USPSTF, the following two questions are a good place to start:
Over the past two weeks, have you ever felt down, depressed, or hopeless?
Over the past two weeks, have you felt little interest or pleasure in doing things?
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
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:
Sex: female—although males are also affected by depression.
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:
Persistent sad, anxious, or empty feelings*
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable*
Frequently feeling guilty, hopeless, helpless, or worthless
Persistent feelings of decreased energy, tiredness, or listlessness
Sleeping too little or sleeping too much
Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain
Feelings of restlessness or irritability, or feeling slowed down
Difficulty thinking, concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
Thoughts of death or
*Either the first or second symptom on this list must be present for a diagnosis of depression.
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" is 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. With better screening and medical care, the future looks brighter for adults with depression.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a