Did you know depression can be “silent?” The signs aren’t always obvious, and they’re often explained away or minimized. Meanwhile the symptoms persist or worsen – until someone asks the right questions.
The good news is screening for depression is becoming more common in the doctor’s office. Just as we screen for conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol, we can also screen for depression – and get more people the care they need.
National Depression Screening Day is recognized on October 6th, but every day is a good day to learn about screening and make an appointment to talk with your provider.
What is Depression Screening?
A depression screening is a simple questionnaire – a list of questions – that assesses your risk of depression. It may ask you to rate how often you experience the following:
- Little interest in doing things
- Feeling down, depressed or hopeless
- Trouble falling or staying asleep, sleeping too much
- Feeling tired or having little energy
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Feeling bad about yourself
- Trouble concentrating
- Moving or speaking slowly; or being fidgety or restless
- Thoughts of suicide or self harm
Your care provider will tally up the answers to determine if you may be experiencing depression.
When Should You Get Screened for Depression?
Many primary care providers perform depression screenings as part of a routine office visit. Providers may suggest a screening if they suspect a patient is struggling. Specialists such as cardiologists may screen for depression because some medical conditions can lead to depression.
We don’t always know which way the causal arrow goes. Not feeling well physically can cause isolation and feeling more down. Or depression can lead to low energy and limit the drive to exercise, for example, which can worsen a condition like diabetes or heart disease.
What Happens After My Depression Screening?
If a screening indicates depression, then we can have a conversation about what’s going on. And what a patient’s options are for treatment through lifestyle changes, therapy and/or medications. What we’re trying to achieve is relief from depressive symptoms.
What if I Don’t Want to Take Depression Medication?
Some people are still pretty hesitant about psychiatric medications. They’re worried that antidepressants will turn them into “zombies.” Or they’re worried about energy level, weight gain or overall cognition.
Most of today’s antidepressants do not cause as much drowsiness, brain fog or weight gain as people may think. If any of these are a concern, please discuss them with your provider. If a patient is not comfortable with medications, they can always try therapy first. They may also be referred to someone like myself who specializes in psychiatric medication management.
The good news is it’s absolutely more common than it was a few years ago for patients to talk about depression, and we have the tools to help. If you’re struggling in any way, don’t hesitate to reach out to your primary care provider or one of our CHI Health therapists.