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Using clinical questions to identify depression

Posted on 01-27-16 in Depression

people eating disorders

Are you depressed?” Although simple and perhaps even blunt, the medical field found that this question was 100 percent effective for uncovering commonly hidden mood disorders. Other systemized interview questionnaires are also relied on by professionals, as only half of those with the disorder receive treatment.

In order to improve rates of early diagnosis and recovery, everyday people should apply these guidelines when they suspect depression is afflicting a loved one.

A doctor’s depression checklist

In a notable 1997 study from the University of Manitoba, Harvey Chochinov, M.D., compared the performance of different screening tools for identifying depression in terminally ill cancer patients. Chochinov’s results showed that asking “Are you depressed?” surpassed its more structured interview competitors. In fact, this single question correctly identified the diagnostic outcome for every participant.

Beyond making broader diagnoses, there are other reliable screening measures used by practitioners today. One checklist of symptomatic criteria was put together by Psychiatrist Carey Gross, M.D., at Massachusetts General Hospital. These recognizable features include:

  • Significant fluctuations in sleeping or appetite patterns
  • Extreme drops in interest or pleasure, also known as anhedonia
  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness or guilt
  • Low energy
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Reduced motor control
  • Suicidal ideation

To satisfy an official diagnosis of major depressive disorder, an individual fulfill four of the above symptoms in addition to marked and prolonged sadness for at least two weeks. For related diagnoses like dysthymic disorder, he or she must display two of the six symptoms as well as general depression for at least two years.

Depression can be another disorder’s best friend

These tested strategies for spotting a singular case of depression may be efficient, but the illness may mask itself behind another behavioral health condition. In fact:

  • Anxiety disorders: Nearly one-half of people with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, particularly panic disorder
  • Substance use disorders: Over 20 percent of individuals diagnosed with a mood disorder also abuse or are dependent on some sort of drug. Similarly, about 40 percent of people with a diagnosed addiction also have a mood disorder
  • Eating disorders: Almost 50 percent of those dealing with an eating disorder meet the criteria for depression

Seeing the signs of co-occurring conditions can be difficult because the symptoms of each disorder can present themselves in any manner of combination. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration supports that integrated screening and assessment should also be utilized in order to view multiple disorders in the context of each other as well as other life aspects.

These measures are particularly useful to establish a baseline that can be used to monitor progress for patients over time. Overall, a practitioner takes the following factors into account:

  • Cultural and linguistic influences
  • The availability of social support
  • Unique circumstances in the individual’s life (pregnancy, recent death in the family)
  • Existing medical ailments that may affect treatment options

Friends and family can do their part to help bring a depressive disorder to light, but when they need an extra hand, the professionals at Sovereign Health are here to help. We treat a wide range of conditions, including depression, and have facilities located all over the nation. Find lasting relief and recovery by calling our 24/7 helpline.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at news@sovhealth.com.