Initial Assessment for Depression
Depression is a common and serious medical condition that negatively affects how someone thinks and acts. They may have unexplainable feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. This can also lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems, decreasing the person’s ability to function at work and at home.
Symptoms of depression can include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood for longer than a few weeks
- Loss of interest and pleasure in activities
- Changes in appetite, may lead to sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Increased fatigue and loss of energy
- Increase in purposeless physical activity, like pacing
- Slowed movements or speech, easily observable by others
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
These symptoms must last for two weeks or more to be diagnosed as depression. Before diagnosing depression, we do like to rule out other medical conditions as the root cause, such as thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies or brain tumors.
One is six people will experience depression at some point in their life. But, fortunately, it’s treatable.
Risk Factors for Depression
Some people are at an increased risk of developing depression, though depression can affect anyone at anytime– even people who appear to live an ideal life.
Differences in certain brain chemicals may contribute to the symptoms of depression. These chemical imbalances in the brain is what drug treatments are typically based on. In many cases, there is a reduction in the amount of certain neurotransmitters found in depressed people, like serotonin and norepinephrine. Like many mental illnesses, genetics also play a factor. Depression can run in families. Personality and other environmental factors can also increase a person’s likelihood of developing depression. People with low self-esteem and who are easily overwhelmed by stress or are generally pessimistic in nature appear to be at an increased risk of developing depression. Those who are continuously exposed to violence, neglect, abuse and poverty may also be at an increased risk of developing depression.
At Fayetteville Psychiatric Associates, we use a questionnaire to help assess whether or not a patient is suffering from depression. These questionnaires are a common diagnostic tool and include questions with sliding scales. Questions, in the form of statements, can include:
- Little interest or pleasure in doing things
- Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Feeling bad about yourself, or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down
Patients will answer based on feelings over the last two weeks and select “not at all”, “several days”, “more than half the days”, or “nearly every day”. A score is then calculated to determine the level of depression the patient is experiencing.
We will also review patient mental health history, asking how long the symptoms have been occurring, personal or family history of mental health issues and any psychiatric treatment they may have received in the past. Personal history will also be reviewed. We may ask about a patient’s marital status, work environment, prior military service, the biggest sources of stress in their life and any past traumas.
Following the history portion, we will begin a cognitive evaluation. This will gauge the patient’s ability to think clearly, recall information and use mental reasoning.
Children can be depressed, just like adults. Since it can be hard for children, especially very young children, to express their feelings and thoughts, assessing their level of depression can prove difficult. For assessing children, we rely on the parent or guardians to speak on what they’ve noticed with the child.