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 or untreated.

Screening Advice

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

According to USPSTF, the following two questions are a good place to start:

  1. Over the past two weeks, have you ever felt down, depressed, or hopeless?
  2. 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.

Are You at Risk?

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 those who are exposed to certain environmental triggers.

If you have symptoms of depression that interfere with your daily routine, contact your doctor. A physical exam and psychological evaluation will be done to determine the cause.

Effective Treatment

Depression is 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 for emergency medical services right away. With better screening and medical care, the future looks brighter for adults with depression.