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Depression Health Center

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Depression Screening - Topic Overview

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all people, starting at age 12, be screened for depression.1, 2 Screening for depression helps find depression early. And early treatment may help you get better faster.

Depression is a disease. It's not caused by personal weakness and is not a character flaw. When you have depression, chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters are out of balance.

Recommended Related to Depression

Serotonin: 9 Questions and Answers

Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another. Although serotonin is manufactured in the brain, where it performs its primary functions, some 90% of our serotonin supply is found in the digestive tract and in blood platelets.

Read the Serotonin: 9 Questions and Answers article > >

Depression causes adults and children to feel sad and hopeless much of the time. It's different from normal feelings of sadness, grief, or low energy. Always tell your doctor if you feel sad or have other symptoms of depression. Many times, people are embarrassed by these feelings and say nothing. Depression can be treated, and the sooner you get treatment, the better your chance for a quick and full recovery. Untreated depression can get worse, cause other health problems, and may last for years or even a lifetime. It can have a serious impact on both you and the people you care about.


To find out if you are depressed, your doctor may do a physical exam and ask you questions about your health and your feelings. Some questions may not seem related to your mood. But your honest answers can help give the doctor clues about how depression may be affecting you. Your doctor may ask you about feelings of sadness, changes in hunger or weight, energy level, concentration, guilt, thoughts of death and suicide, sleep, general interest in everyday activities, and more.

Some diseases can cause symptoms that look like depression. So your doctor may do blood tests to help rule out physical problems, such as a low thyroid level or anemia.

Children and teens

Symptoms of depression in children and teens can be different from adult symptoms.

To find out if your child is depressed, the doctor may do a physical exam and ask your child about his or her health and about how he or she thinks, acts, and feels. The doctor may ask your child about grouchiness, temper tantrums, headaches, stomachaches, social withdrawal, and more. It is common for children with depression to have other problems, such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or an eating disorder. The doctor may ask questions about these problems too.

The doctor may also ask you or a teacher to fill out a form about your child's symptoms.

Some diseases can cause symptoms that look like depression. So the doctor may do blood tests to help rule out physical problems, such as a low thyroid level or anemia.

For more information, see the topics Depression, Mental Health Assessment, and Depression in Children and Teens.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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