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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

Depression and Risky Behavior

Depression poses many dangers, burdening people with hopelessness and raising their risk of suicide. But in attempts to quell the pain, some turn to alcohol, drugs, and other harmful behaviors that endanger them even further, psychologists say. “There is a strong relationship between depression and high-risk behaviors,” says Pamela Cantor, PhD, a psychologist and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. “Excessive drinking, drug abuse, unsafe sex, and cutting are all self-injurious behaviors that...

Read the Depression and Risky Behavior 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.

Adults

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.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 03, 2013
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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