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What is Depression Screening, and What Are My Next Steps After Taking One?

Are you feeling down, losing interest in things you used to enjoy, having trouble sleeping, or noticing changes in your eating habits? If so, you might be experiencing symptoms of depression. 

Depression is a serious medical condition that can negatively affect how you feel, think, and function in your everyday life. If left untreated, it can lead to various emotional, psychological, and physical problems.

Fortunately, depression is a treatable condition. If you think you might be depressed, the first step is to seek professional help. A mental health professional can conduct a depression screening to help determine if you have the condition.

What is Depression Screening?

A depression screening is a series of questions or tasks used to determine if someone is experiencing symptoms of depression. Mental health professionals use it to screen for various types, including major depressive disorder, dysthymia (a milder form of depression), and bipolar disorder. 

There are several different types of depression screenings, but they all aim to assess the same thing: whether or not you are experiencing symptoms of the condition.

Patient Health Questionnaire-9

The most common kind is the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). Under an educational grant from Pfizer, Drs. Janet B.W. Williams, Robert L. Spitzer, Kurt Kroenke, and colleagues developed it to measure the frequency, severity, and duration of symptoms associated with depression.

The PHQ-9 is a self-report questionnaire that asks you about your symptoms over the past two weeks. Based on your responses, the PHQ-9 will generate a score that indicates the severity of your depression symptoms. 

The following are the nine questions included in the PHQ, taken from the Anxiety & Depression Association of America:

  1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things.         
  2. Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless.         
  3. Trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much.        
  4. Feeling tired or having little energy.
  5. Poor appetite or overeating.         
  6. Feeling bad about yourself —or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down.         
  7. Trouble concentrating on things such as reading the newspaper or watching television.         
  8. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed? Or the opposite —being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual.         
  9. Thoughts that you would be better off dead or hurting yourself in some way.

A person who scores five on the PHQ-9 is at risk for mild depression, a score of ten indicates moderate depression, and a score of fifteen represents moderately severe depression. A score of twenty, however, is usually indicative of severe depression.

Moreover, people who answer "yes" to question nine should be immediately referred to a mental health professional for an evaluation such as a hospital/ER, as they may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. They are also subject to further evaluation to assess the level of risk they may pose to themselves.

The PHQ-9 is a widely used tool for screening for depression. In fact, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that adults be screened for depression by their primary care providers.

Other Depression Screens

Aside from the PHQ-9, several other depression screens can be used to assess the condition.

The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) is a 21-question multiple-choice self-report inventory that assesses the severity of symptoms associated with depression, such as mood, pessimism, sense of failure, self-dissatisfaction, guilt, punishment feelings, self-dislike, suicidal ideation, crying, irritability, social withdrawal, and insomnia. It's one of the most commonly used depression screens, particularly in research settings. Dr. Aaron T. Beck developed the BDI in 1961, and it has since been revised several times.

The Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale is another commonly used screen. Developed in 1965 by Dr. William W.K. Zung, the 20-question self-report measure assesses the severity of symptoms associated with depression, such as depressed mood, sleep disturbances, fatigue, poor appetite, and poor concentration. Like the PHQ-9, the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale generates a score that indicates the severity of symptoms, with a higher score indicating more severe symptoms.

The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) is a widely-used 10-item self-report measure designed to assess postpartum depression. Dr. John Cox and colleagues developed the EPDS in 1987.

No matter the type of screening, they all aim to provide a quick way to determine if you might have depression and need professional help. However, they are not diagnostic tools and should not be used to make a definitive diagnosis.

What are the Next Steps After Taking a Depression Screening?

If a depression screening indicates that you might be depressed, there are a few next steps you can take.

Follow Up for a Full Evaluation

The first step is to follow up with a full evaluation from a mental health professional. It will likely involve a comprehensive assessment examining your medical history, family history, symptoms, and other factors.

This evaluation will help to rule out any other possible causes of your symptoms and confirm a diagnosis of depression. Once you have been diagnosed, you and your mental health professional can work together to develop a treatment plan.

Look for a Mental Health Professional

If you don't have a regular mental health professional, there are a few ways to find one. You can ask your primary care doctor for a referral, look for a mental health provider in your insurance network, or search for one on Psychology Today's Therapist Finder.

For most people, finding the right psychologist is trial and error. Some people prefer a male provider, while others prefer a female. In terms of theoretical orientation, some people prefer cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), while others prefer a more humanistic approach.

Ultimately, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your provider and believe they can help you. If you don't feel this way, it's perfectly fine to keep looking until you find someone you think can help you on your journey to recovery.

Book an Appointment

You can always book an appointment for a consultation to see if a provider is a good match. Doing so allows you to ask questions and get more information about their experience and approach to treatment. You can also ask about their availability and the type of insurance they accept.

Here are good signs that a provider is a good match for you:

  • They are readily available and have experience treating depression.
  • They make you feel comfortable and listen to your concerns.
  • They have a good understanding of depression and its treatments.
  • They answer your questions in a way that is easy to understand.
  • You have a natural rapport with them.

Know Your Treatment Options

There are many treatment options for depression, and you must find one that works for you. Some people respond well to medication; others find that therapy is more helpful, while others find that a combination of medication and therapy is the most effective approach.

If you are considering medication, research the different types of antidepressants available and their potential side effects. Speaking with your doctor about other medications is also essential, as some antidepressants can interact with other drugs.

If you are considering therapy, research its different types and find a therapist you feel comfortable with.

Psychotherapy

Also called talk therapy, psychotherapy is a type of counseling that can help you manage your depression. You will work with a therapist during therapy to identify and change negative thinking and behavior patterns.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on helping you identify and change negative thinking and behavior patterns. Patients work with a therapist to learn how to identify and challenge distorted thoughts, change unhelpful behavior, and deal with difficult emotions.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

DBT is a type of therapy that helps you manage your emotions and behaviors. During therapy, you will work with a therapist to identify and change negative thinking and behavior patterns. You will also learn coping skills, such as mindfulness and stress management.

Supportive Therapy

Supportive therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on providing patients with support and coping skills. Therapists work with patients to help them manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Knowing your options is critical as you move forward in your treatment for depression. If one approach doesn't work for you, don't give up hope—there are many other options available, and one of them is sure to be right for you.

Show up for Your Appointments

Depression is a chronic illness, which means it requires long-term treatment. Therefore, keeping your appointments, even if you're feeling better is essential. Missing appointments can make it harder to manage your depression and may lead to a relapse.

It's also important to be honest with your provider about your feelings and what's happening in your life. The more they know, the better they can help you get back on track.

Don't Miss Your Medication

Always take it as prescribed. Skipping doses or not taking your medication at all can make your depression worse.

Talk to your doctor if you're having trouble taking your prescription or experiencing unwanted side effects. They may be able to adjust the dose or switch you to a different medication.

Remember that it is not uncommon for people with depression to try several different medications before finding one that works. Don't get discouraged if you need to try a few different ones.

Find a Support System

As no man is an island, no one should have to go through depression alone. Many different support systems are available, so find one that works for you.

Online support groups, therapy, and psychiatric services are all great options. You can also find support from family and friends. If you don't feel comfortable talking to them about your depression, there are many other people who understand what you're going through and can offer support.

If you're feeling suicidal, don't hesitate to reach out for help. Many resources, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, can provide you with the support you need.

Gather Valuable Resources

Depression can be overwhelming, but many resources are available to help you cope. Books, articles, websites, and hotlines can provide valuable information and support. Some resources that may also be helpful are the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Psychiatric Association, and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

Don't hesitate to contact your doctor, therapist, or a support group if you need help finding resources. They can point you in the right direction and help you get your needed support.

And if you're feeling overwhelmed, don't hesitate to reach out for help. Remember, you're not alone —many people are dealing with depression, but the right treatment and support can make all the difference.

Take Care of Yourself

Self-care is essential when you're dealing with depression. Make sure to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and avoid drugs and alcohol.

It's also important to find activities that make you happy and do them regularly. They can be anything from reading, listening to music, or spending time with friends and family. Taking time for yourself will help you cope with depression and may even prevent a relapse.

Take the First Step Today

You should never delay getting help for depression. If you are feeling its symptoms, the best thing you can do is to seek professional help.

Don't wait to do it —the sooner you start treatment, the sooner you will start feeling better. There's no point in suffering when help is available. The earlier you catch depression, the easier it will be to treat.

The same is true if you're worried about someone else. If you think they may be depressed, don't hesitate to reach out and offer your support. The sooner they get help, the better.

Conclusion

A depression screening is a valuable tool that can help you or someone you know determine if they are experiencing symptoms of depression. If you screened positive, take the next steps to live a healthier, happier life.

At Jackson House, we understand how difficult it can be to deal with depression. That's why we offer a variety of resources and support to help you through this tough time. Call us today to learn more about how we can help you.

About the author

Jackson House

Jackson House

We built Jackson House because we realized there was a critical gap in our healthcare system and many individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems were struggling because of it. While there are many outpatient treatment options and locked, inpatient facilities there was nothing in the middle. Nothing to help people who needed around the clock care but wanted to receive treatment voluntarily, on their own terms. Jackson House is different. We provide clients with the level of care they need in a welcoming environment. When you walk through our doors, we will meet you wherever you’re at and help you on your journey toward feeling better.

It's time to feel better

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If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.