U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is in the process of updating their recommendations for depression screening, now urging family physicians to regularly screen patients for depression. While the recommendation is for all adults, it is especially important that pregnant and postpartum women be screened.
The panel recommends that doctors use standardized questionnaires that detect warning sign of the disorder. Patients who are concerned they might be depressed could also download the questionnaire from the internet and fill it out ahead of time before their appointment. Additionally, the form could be available in the waiting room for patients to fill out, which would minimize physician time.
Specifically, the USPSTF recommends that physicians use the commonly used Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), a list of 10 questions that focus on symptoms such as low energy, poor appetite, and sleep problems.
If a patient shows signs of depression, they would then be referred to a specialist for a full diagnosis and treatment, rather than having family physicians try to diagnose and treat the disorder themselves.
About 7 percent of US adults experience depression, however, many are never diagnosed and do not get treated.
"Only about 25 percent of depression sufferers seek out professional help, but more than 90 percent will see a physician and present symptoms and signs that could be diagnosed," said Dr. Michael Yapko, a clinical psychologist and depression expert who is not on the task force.
The American Council on Science and Health's Senior Director of Medicine and Public Health, Dr. Gil Ross, added this: The majority of people suffering from depression even the most severe depression can get better with treatment. But the key is, making the diagnosis: clinical depression, while a devastating condition which robs the pleasure of life from its victims, is often not easily diagnosed, so these screening recommendations are going to be a major benefit. This advisory should be applied more generally than just to women who are pregnant or recently were, as depression knows no gender nor age boundaries.