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Depression Screening: An Overview

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Depression screening is a different type of self-report survey that help diagnose depression.

Written by

Dr. Pallavi. C

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Vishal Anilkumar Gandhi

Published At June 21, 2023
Reviewed AtJuly 17, 2023

What Exactly Is Depression Screening?

Depression screening is another name for depression tests. One must respond to a set of common questions to assist the doctor in determining whether they suffer from depression. A prevalent and significant mental health issue is depression. Everyone experiences melancholy occasionally, but depression is distinct from ordinary sadness or loss.

Depression has an impact on their thoughts, emotions, and actions. It is challenging to carry on at work and home. One could stop being interested in things they used to like. Depression can cause some people to feel worthless and even consider hurting themselves. Additionally, bipolar disorder and other mental health problems may include depression.

Depression screening is frequently performed as part of a standard physical examination since it is a prevalent mental health issue. According to medical professionals, everyone should have a depression test beginning at age 12. Early depression detection may be aided by screening. Additionally, early depression treatment may speed up recovery. The majority of depressed persons will recover.

What Are Other Names for Depression Tests?

The other names for the depression test are

  • Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9).

  • The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI).

  • The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D).

  • The Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale (SDS).

  • The Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS and GDS-SF).

What Is the Purpose of Depression Screening?

Using a depression screening, one can:

  • Aid in depression diagnosis

  • Recognize the potential severity of depression.

  • Identify the sort of depression one may be experiencing.

Depression comes in several forms. The most typical kinds are:

  • Major Depressive Disorder: This is another name for severe depression. Working, sleeping, studying, and eating while the symptoms are present is usually challenging. One typically experiences symptoms of serious depression for at least two weeks.

  • Chronic Depression: This is often known as dysthymia. Though the symptoms are less severe than those of major depression, they persist for a longer period, usually at least two years.

  • SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder: When there is less sunshine in the winter, this type of depression typically occurs. The spring and summer months are often better for most SAD sufferers.

  • Depression After Childbirth: Major depression follows giving delivery in this case. It is more severe and lasts longer than moderate discontent and other mood swings, sometimes called the "baby blues." Pregnancy can also lead to major depression. Perinatal depression is a term used to describe depression that occurs during or soon after pregnancy. Regular depression screening is advised by medical professionals during pregnancy and after delivery.

When Should One Consider Depression Screening?

Frequently, a normal exam includes a depression screening. If one exhibits any of the following symptoms of depression, they may also require depression screening:

  • Loss of enjoyment or interest in once-enjoyable activities.

  • Being depressed or worried.

  • Guilty, worthless, or powerless sentiments.

  • Inability to sleep or excessive sleepiness, fatigue, and lack of energy.

  • Difficulty in focusing, recalling specifics, or making judgments.

  • Alterations to weight.

  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Who Are Involved in Depression Screening?

Depression is treated by a variety of mental health professionals. One can get the proper support by asking their main healthcare practitioner.

Some of the specialists with training in identifying and treating depression include the following:

  • Psychiatrists are physicians with a focus on mental health. Medicines may be prescribed by psychiatrists.

  • Doctoral degrees are often required for psychologists, but they are not required for doctors. Without a specific license, they are unable to prescribe medication. Some psychologists collaborate with medical professionals who can write prescriptions. Psychologists may conduct individual treatment sessions as well as group therapy sessions.

  • Nurses having specialized training in mental health issues are known as psychiatric or mental health nurses. Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and certified nurse practitioners (CNPs) are among the nurses who may hold master's or doctorate degrees in psychiatric-mental health nursing. Certain nurses may be able to prescribe medications in specific states.

  • A master's degree in social work with specialized training in mental health is the minimum requirement for licensed clinical social workers. Although they cannot administer medications, they could collaborate with healthcare professionals who are. Clinical social workers that are licensed often have LCSW (licensed clinical social worker) or LICSW (licensed independent clinical social worker guide) after their names.

  • Other names for licensed professional counselors (LPCs) include clinicians and therapists. Depending on the state, these licenses go by many designations, such as LMFT (licensed marital and family therapist). These specialists often hold a master's degree in a discipline associated with mental health. Despite having no medical authority, they could collaborate with practitioners who do.

How Is the Depression Test Conducted?

Answering a set of standard questions is part of a depression test. One can fill out a questionnaire to discuss with the clinician later, or the provider may ask specific questions to evaluate the alterations one has seen in the below-mentioned.

  • Mood.

  • Sleep patterns.

  • Hunger or weight.

  • The energy level and the ability to concentrate.

  • Angst levels (an uneasy and unhappy feeling).

  • The drugs they take.

  • Drug and alcohol abuse.

  • The history of depression and other mental illnesses in individuals and their families.

Also possible is a physical examination. There is no laboratory test to identify depression. However, the doctor may request blood tests to determine whether a different medical problem, such as anemia or thyroid illness, maybe the root of the sadness. A mental health professional may interview one in greater depth on their emotions and behaviors if they undergo testing. Additionally, they could be asked to answer a quiz regarding these topics.

What Do the Findings Indicate?

The doctor will go through the treatment choices if depression is identified. The chances of fully recovering may increase if one begins therapy right away. Although it could take some time for treatment to take effect, it can help lessen symptoms and cut the duration of depression.

The healthcare practitioner could advise to get treatment from a mental health professional. A healthcare clinician with expertise in detecting and treating mental health issues is known as a mental health provider. A depression test may assist in directing the treatment if they already see a mental health professional.


Depression screening is a valuable and convenient resource for medical practitioners. They are often simple to complete, and they are generally accurate in identifying both the existence and severity of depression symptoms.

The first step in being assessed for major depressive disorder if one has depressed symptoms is to see a healthcare provider. A mental health expert can collaborate with individuals to develop a treatment strategy based on their findings.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Screening Method Is Most Effective for Identifying Depression in Adolescents?

The best screening tool for finding out if a teenager is depressed is called the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 for Adolescents (PHQ-9A). It is a widely used and well-validated self-report questionnaire specifically designed to assess depressive symptoms in teenagers. The PHQ-9A is a tool with nine questions to help doctors and teachers understand the severity of depression in teenagers.


What Screening Method Works Best for Identifying Depression in Children?

One test that is often used to check for depression in children is called the Children's Depression Inventory (CDI). The CDI is a set of questions that kids and teens between 7 and 17 years old can answer to see if they have symptoms of depression. This tool is used by mental health professionals to check for and evaluate depression in young people.


Which Screening Tool Is Most Effective for Identifying Anxiety in Adolescents?

Assessing anxiety in adolescents often involves using standardized self-report questionnaires or clinical interviews. One commonly used screening tool for anxiety in adolescents is the Screen for Child Anxiety-Related Disorders (SCARED), which is a reliable and validated questionnaire. It helps identify various anxiety disorders in teenagers.


What Screening Tests Are Commonly Employed to Detect Depression?

- Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9)

- Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)

- Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale

- Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D)

- Children's Depression Inventory (CDI)

- Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D)

- Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS)


What Does It Indicate When a Depression Screening Yields a Positive Result?

A positive result in depression screening means that the person being tested has shown signs or responses that suggest they might have depression. This means that more tests and a doctor's exam might be needed to confirm if someone has depression and how serious it is.


What Is the Process for Assessing an Individual for Depression?

There are different ways to check if someone is depressed, like self-report questionnaires, clinical interviews, and assessments conducted by mental health professionals. Usually, a doctor or therapist will talk to the person about how they are feeling and what they are experiencing to find out if they have depression.


Is Mild Depression Considered a Legitimate Condition?

Yes, mild depression is a valid and recognized mental health condition. It is sometimes referred to as dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder and involves experiencing symptoms of depression that are less severe than those in major depressive disorder.


What Dangers Are Associated With Self-Diagnosing Depression?

Self-diagnosing depression carries several risks, including the potential for misinterpreting normal emotional fluctuations as clinical depression, leading to unnecessary distress and anxiety. It may also delay seeking professional help, resulting in untreated or improperly managed depression, which can worsen over time.


Can Individuals Self-Diagnose Depression?

One can certainly recognize and be aware of the symptoms and signs of depression, but a self-diagnosis should not replace a formal diagnosis by a qualified mental health professional. A professional assessment is important to confirm whether a person has depression and to determine its severity.


What is the Earliest Age for Diagnosing Childhood Depression?

Children as young as 6 or 7 years old can be diagnosed with depression, although it is relatively rare in very young children. Depression in children is often referred to as early-onset or childhood depression. Diagnosing depression in younger children may require specialized assessments and the involvement of mental health professionals experienced in working with children.


Is It Possible for Depression to Be Triggered by the Onset of Puberty?

Puberty can be a contributing factor to depression in some children. Puberty can bring about hormonal changes, physical transformations, and social pressures, which can lead to various challenges. Not all adolescents experience depression during this period, but some are more vulnerable to the condition due to hormonal fluctuations and other factors.


What Is the Importance of Mental Health Screenings?

It is very important to have mental health screenings because they help catch potential mental health problems early. This gives people the chance to get help and support when they need it. They assist in finding signs and risk factors, which, when taken care of quickly, can stop mental health issues from getting worse.

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Dr. Vishal Anilkumar Gandhi
Dr. Vishal Anilkumar Gandhi



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