Why Your Doctor Might Ask About Your Mood At Your Next Visit

In the past two weeks, have you lost interest or pleasure in doing things? Have you felt down, down, depressed or hopeless? If you’ve visited the doctor recently, you may have been asked to complete a questionnaire that can help to start a discussion about possible depression.

Depression is most often recognized in a primary care setting, such as family practice, pediatric or internal medicine. The provider asks these questions in order to diagnose depression early on and begin treatment promptly. Treatment may include education, counseling, medication or other mutually agreed-upon treatment. The sooner treatment is initiated for depression, the better the outcome.

Due to the potential effects of untreated depression, there are clear national guidelines that recommend annual depression screening for people age 12 years and older.

Depression that is not diagnosed and adequately treated can lead to:

  • Decreased work productivity
  • Substance abuse
  • Disability
  • Unemployment
  • Suicide

Untreated depression not only can decrease quality of life, but can also affect the well-being of friends and family. Older adults, who tend to have multiple chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic pain and heart disease, to name just a few, commonly suffer from depression. This is not a normal part of aging. Interestingly, this population is screened less frequently for depression than other groups, so a depression diagnosis is often missed.

Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment for depression can lessen the severity of chronic conditions. Treatment also has been shown to decrease hospitalizations and other interventions related to chronic illness. Most importantly, early diagnosis and adequate treatment for depression improves a person’s quality of life.

If you have a depressed mood that’s lasted more than two weeks or have lost interest or pleasure in the things you typically like to do, talk with your health care provider. These feelings may not be depression, but should be evaluated. If a diagnosis of depression is made, a mutually agreed-upon treatment plan between you and your provider can launch the healing process and improve your health.

Courtesy image

About the author: Kara Schrader is a family nurse practitioner at the Family Health Center at Michigan State University and an assistant professor at the Michigan State University College of Nursing where she teaches in the nurse practitioner program.

Photo Credit: Mitya Ku

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