Screening for depression should be a routine procedure included in all medical check-ups, so that depressive episodes could be caught early and treated, says the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Taking into consideration that a depressive episode, regardless of its intensity has quite a significant influence on the personal and professional life of a person, it should be considered a medical condition of enough importance that it should be included in the routine check-up procedures, along with assessing blood pressure and heart rate.
Depression can greatly affect how a person sleeps and eats, and the outcome could alternate from insomnia to oversleeping, and from overeating to loss of appetite. Also, the series of feelings associated with depression, such as hopelessness, sadness and despair, have significant effect on the overall health of the person and therefore, diagnosing depression in its earlier phases could lead to a better chance of overcoming the disease.
The screening method suggested by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force was a standard nine-question Patient Health Questionnaire meant to assess the level of depression of a patient. This is a very fast and effective screening method and it is extremely accessible to patients, as they could easy fill out the questionnaire either in the waiting room, before the check-up, during the check-up or even in the privacy of their own homes, after the check-up.
This test is not however a complete diagnosis method. In order to diagnose a patient with depression, this test needs to be corroborated by a complete medical examination. The questionnaire is merely meant to identify signals of depression and the right moment when a patient needs to be referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist.
The treatment for depression usually entails anti depressive medication or cognitive behavioral therapy. Depending on the case, the combination of the these two methods could prove to be most effective for the patient, in accordance to the level of depression, as each of the methods might be ineffective on its own.
The highest risk groups associated with depression are patients displaying suicidal tendencies and perinatal women, who might be suffering from postpartum depression. The screening test could serve to identify the suicidal patients before they get a chance to hurt themselves or anybody else.
Also, it could be extremely useful for women, in relation to the onset of postpartum depression. While this condition affects a great many women who have never had depressive episodes, those who did suffer from depression prior to becoming mothers are particularly predisposed to develop postpartum depression as well.
Furthermore, if they are undergoing depression during pregnancy, then the outcome could prove to be extremely serious and it is best that the doctors get a chance to develop an effective method of resolving this matter before it gets out of hand.
It remains to be seen if the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force will manage to introduce screening for depression in the routine medical check-up, as it could prove to be extremely useful for the overall health of Americans.
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