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Depression Screening: What You Need to Know

Depression is a serious mental illness that affects millions of people every year. It can cause a person to feel sad, hopeless, and worthless. In some cases, depression can be so severe that it leads to suicide. That is why everyone needs to know about depression screening. In this blog post, we will discuss what depression screening is and why it is important.

What is depression?

Depression is a mental illness that causes extreme feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair over some time. It can be so severe that it leads to suicide.

Depression is common in the U.S.; about 16 million American adults experience at least one major depressive episode each year. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 10 people have depression at any given time.

Although depression can occur at any age, it is most common among women between 45 and 64 years old, who also have a higher risk of suicide than men or younger adults.

Depression can affect your ability to function at work, school, or home. It may cause you to withdraw from friends and family members and make even simple tasks seem too much effort.

That’s why it’s important to recognize the symptoms of depression, seek help and take steps to manage the condition.

What is depression screening?

Depression screening is a brief, standardized assessment used to determine whether you may have depression. You can be asked about your symptoms and their severity, how long they’ve lasted and what impact they have on your life.

Some people with depression also experience anxiety and substance abuse disorders. Depression screening helps doctors rule out these other conditions before diagnosing depression. This is important because some medications used to treat these disorders can make it harder to diagnose depression.

Depression screening can also help you and your doctor decide whether medication or psychotherapy may be helpful. However, depression screening is not the same as a diagnostic interview, which is more comprehensive.

A diagnostic interview takes a thorough look at your symptoms and how they affect your life. It can help determine whether you have depression or another condition that causes similar symptoms, such as anxiety or bipolar disorder. If you think that you may have depression, talk to your doctor.

Screening Tools For Depression

There are several depression screening tools that you can use to help identify whether a person has depression. These tests are quick and easy to use and can be administered by health care providers or family members.

The most commonly used screening tools for depression include:

PHQ-9 (Patient Health Questionnaire-9)

PHQ-9 is a depression screening tool used by health care professionals to make sure that patients are not depressed. It is a 9-question test that can be completed in five minutes or less.

The PHQ-9, a nine-question survey, asks patients to rate how often they have been bothered by a variety of symptoms in the past two weeks. It includes questions about your mood, sleep, physical symptoms, work, and social activities, eating habits, and energy level.

Each item is rated on a four-point scale ranging from 0 (not at all) to 3 (nearly every day). Patients are considered to have the major depressive disorder if their total score is above 5.

PHQ-2 (Patient Health Questionnaire-2)

The PHQ-2 is a two-item screening tool for depression that can be used to evaluate your level of depressive symptoms. This test is a brief, reliable and valid measure of the presence of depressive symptoms in primary care settings.

The test consists of two questions about the frequency of depressed mood and anhedonia (lack of interest or pleasure) and asks patients to rate each symptom on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 3 (nearly every day). The total score ranges from 0 to 6. If you answer yes to either question 1 or 2, your result will be 2 points. But, if you answer yes to both questions, this is 4 points and so on.

If you have at least one positive answer out of the two items, you likely have depression.

Why should you get screened for depression?

Depression affects millions of Americans every year — including many who don’t realize they are depressed until they start feeling symptoms.

All too often, people think that depression is just a bad mood or feeling down. But depression is much more than that. Depression can cause extreme sadness and despair, as well as loss of interest or pleasure in things you normally enjoy.

Depression left untreated can lead to suicide. Hence, if you are feeling depressed, you must get screened for depression. If you have a family history of depression or other mental disorders, it’s especially important to talk with your doctor about how best to manage your health.

What Happens During Depression Screening?

Remember, depression screening is a short test that helps determine if you may have depression. It’s not a diagnostic tool, meaning it can’t tell you for sure if you have depression. But it’s an important first step in getting help for your symptoms.


Depression screening tests vary from one place to another and from one doctor to another. Most use different versions of the same questionnaire asking about your mood, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors over the past two weeks.


After taking the questionnaire, you’ll discuss your answers with your doctor or nurse practitioner (NP). They will ask questions about how long these symptoms have been going on and what they’re like. They’ll also ask about other problems you might be having right now besides depression — like trouble sleeping or anxiety — that could affect how you answer these questions.

Medical History

The NP will also ask about your past. They will ask about your family history of depression and other mental health problems, how you were treated for these problems in the past, and if you’ve ever had thoughts about harming yourself or others. They will want to know if there’s a reason why you might be depressed now (like losing someone close to you).

The NP will also ask you some questions about your general health. This includes things like whether you smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs. They’ll want to know if any medical issues could be causing depression or making it worse (like a thyroid problem). If so, they’ll include these in the diagnosis.

Lifestyle Questions

Finally, they’ll ask you about your life. This includes whether you have a job and what your work is like (if applicable), how many hours of sleep you get each night, and if there are any major stresses in your life right now (like financial difficulties).

Depression screening is not a one-and-done process. It’s more like a detective investigation, where the clinician gathers clues and pieces them together to form a diagnosis. This process can take several visits, with each visit building on what happened in previous ones.

How long does depression screening take?

The length of the process depends on how quickly you and your clinician can get through all of the necessary steps. It’s important to remember that a proper depression screen takes time—especially if it’s an in-person visit. And don’t worry about feeling like it’s taking too long; if anything, going slow and thorough will result in more accurate results!

What happens after my depression screening test results come back?

If you have screened positive for depression, your healthcare provider will review the results and discuss their meaning. You and your clinician must work together to develop a treatment plan.

The plan will be based on the severity of your symptoms and how long they’ve lasted; it could include therapy, medication, or both.

If you don’t screen positive for depression but are still struggling with symptoms, your clinician can work with you to find an appropriate course of action.

What if I decide to seek treatment?

If you decide to seek treatment for depression, it’s important to find a mental health professional who is right for you. It can be helpful to talk with your primary care doctor or other health care providers about the pros and cons of different types of treatment.

Some people with depression may not be interested in medication or therapy and may prefer to try other ways of managing their symptoms. Other people prefer to use a combination of treatments. There’s no one right way to treat depression—the best approach is the one that works best for you.

Where can I get a depression screening?

You can get a depression screening at your primary care doctor’s office or mental health provider. They may do it as part of an annual checkup or ask if you want to be screened for depression when you see them for other reasons (like if you’re having trouble sleeping).

If you’re worried about depression and want to know how to get a depression screening, start by talking with your doctor. Ask if they would be willing to do one. If not, ask if they can refer you to someone else who does.

Does my health insurance cover it?

The short answer is yes. Many healthcare plans cover some form of depression screening. However, there are some differences between plans and even within the same plan from year to year. This makes it difficult for consumers to know exactly what they’re covered for and how much it will cost them out-of-pocket.

How often should I get screened for depression?

Depression screening is not a one-time thing. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, it’s important to get screened again in the future so your doctor can track your progress.

Moreover, the American Psychiatric Association recommends that all adults undergo depression screening at least once in their lives. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recommends that people who are at higher risk of depression should be screened more often than this.


Depression is a very real issue. It goes beyond the simple blues and can have a detrimental effect on your life, your career, and your goals.

If you have problems that go beyond the everyday struggles with stress and insecurity, then take a moment to consider whether or not you may be dealing with depression. If you feel that answer is yes, follow up and get screened.

Depression Screening is a useful tool for identifying or ruling out those suffering from depression. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, it’s important to get screened again in the future so your doctor can track your progress.

The screening process is quick. It can help you determine whether you need to seek additional treatment or simply monitor your symptoms. Whether you’re experiencing depression, anxiety, or both, getting screened by a professional who can guide your treatment plan is important.