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How To Get Assessed For Depression

Meet Yourself Where You Are

Psychiatric Interviews for Teaching: Depression

Depression is common. It affects millions of people, including some in your life. You may not realize they face similar challenges, emotions, and obstacles.

The key to navigating depression is to be open, accepting, and loving toward yourself and what youre going through.

Every day with this disorder is different. Its important to take your mental health seriously and accept that where you are right now isnt where youll always be.

What Happens During Depression Screening

Your primary care provider may give you a physical exam and ask you about your feelings, mood, sleep habits, and other symptoms. Your provider may also order a blood test to find out if a disorder, such as anemia or thyroid disease, may be causing your depression.

During a blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.

If you are being tested by a mental health provider, he or she may ask you more detailed questions about your feelings and behaviors. You may also be asked to fill out a questionnaire about these issues.

Continuation Maintenance Phases Of Depression Treatment

Once you have gotten your depressive symptoms under control, your healthcare provider will likely establish how treatment will happen during the continuation phase.

In many cases, according to the APA, the healthcare provider will not make any changes to treatment for at least four to nine months if the treatment is working .

Given that there is a significant risk of relapse during the continuation phase, systematic assessment of depressive symptoms, functional status, and quality of life is essential, the guide states.

After this period, the healthcare provider will evaluate your condition and determine whether to alter your treatment plan.

In general, the same treatment that was effective in the acute and continuation phases should be used for the maintenance phase. Antidepressants should generally be continued at full therapeutic dose. Reduced frequency of psychotherapy sessions may be considered, the guide states.

Because there is a potential for relapse, the APA advises providers to continue monitoring their patients. If you relapse, there should be a plan in place regarding treatment resumption.

While clinical depression can be hard to treat, the end goal for both you and your doctor is getting you back to feeling like yourself and living life as fully as possible. In clinical terms, this is defined as remission. Those reaching remission claim to feel more motivated, excited for social outings, less obsessive and more stable regarding their mood.

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What To Do If You Get Diagnosed With Depression

If youre diagnosed with any type of depression, know that you are not alone. Help and effective treatment is available, and there are simple, effective lifestyle changes you can make to begin feeling better, often right away. Lets look at some self-care and other techniques that can help keep you grounded and more positive in your daily life if you have depression diagnosed.

Dos And Donts At Your Medical Assessment

Holistic Treatment of Depression
  • Tell the Healthcare Professional everything you can thats relevant to your illness, health condition or disability, even if its already on your form
  • Back up what youve said on the capability for work questionnaire with any evidence you can, like a doctors letter or examples of things that have happened to you
  • Ask for any help you need it can make the assessment less stressful


  • Exaggerate or lie about your condition
  • Feel you have to do anything you normally wouldnt be able to do
  • Expect the assessor to be on your side theyre there to ask questions, not to make sure you get ESA.

After your assessment, a decision-maker from the DWP will look at the recommendation made by the assessor and use this to decide if you can get ESA.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

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Consider Seeing A Psychiatrist First

There’s a tendency for some new patients to visit a counselor or psychologist for their initial mental health evaluation rather than a psychiatrist. This can be beneficial for many people, especially if your case is not severe, but for others, it’s often not enough.

Only psychiatrists are also medical doctors, which means that they are able to prescribe medications.

If your depression stems from a chemical imbalance, talk therapy will not be sufficient to treat you. It’s best to make your initial visit to a psychiatrist, who can both prescribe medications and offer you psychotherapy if it’s needed. This two-pronged approach of medication and talk therapy is often the most beneficial to patients.

Psychotherapy is a broad term for a variety of different verbal and psychological techniques that are employed to help an individual work through their mental health condition or source of underlying stress. These techniques include but are not limited to psychoanalytic therapy or psychodynamic psychotherapy, behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy . Oftentimes, other mental health professionals in the field such as counselors and social workers will draw from psychotherapeutic techniques and use them with their clients.

What Questions Are Asked In A Depression Screening

A typical depression screening will ask you to think about how youve been feeling over the past two weeks. The PHQ-9 will ask you to assess how often youve experienced the following:

  • Little interest or pleasure in doing things
  • Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless
  • Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping too much
  • Feeling tired or having little energy
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Feeling bad about yourself
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed? Or the oppositebeing so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual
  • Thoughts that you would be better off dead or hurting yourself
  • Youll go down the list and assign a frequency to each question. Your choices are:

    • Not at all
    • More than half the days
    • Nearly every day

    The important thing is to be honest with your responses. Youre trying to learn more about your mental health, and this is a good entry point for doing so.

    Its not foolproof, like anything, but its another tool that we can use, explains Anandhi Narasimhan, MD, a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist in a private clinical practice in California who also serves as staff psychiatrist at Masada Homes in Gardena, California.

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    How Does A Doctor Make A Depression Diagnosis

    We’ve gotten used to doctors using special blood tests or other complex laboratory tests to help them make a conclusive diagnosis. But most lab tests arenât very helpful when it comes to diagnosing depression. In fact, talking with the patient may be the most important diagnostic tool the doctor has. The recommendation is that doctors routinely screen everyone for depression. This screening might take place during a visit for a chronic illness, at an annual wellness visit, or during a pregnancy or postpartum visit.

    To effectively diagnose and treat depression, the doctor must hear about specific symptoms of depression. They may use a series of standard questions to screen for depression. While a physical examination will reveal a patient’s overall state of health, by talking with a patient, a doctor can learn about other things that are relevant to making a depression diagnosis. A patient, for example, can report on such things as daily moods, behaviors, and lifestyle habits.

    A depression diagnosis is often difficult to make because clinical depression can show up in so many different ways. For example, some clinically depressed people seem to withdraw into a state of apathy. Others may become irritable or even agitated. Eating and sleeping patterns can be exaggerated. Clinical depression may cause someone to sleep or eat to excess, or almost eliminate those activities.

    Small Steps Big Impact

    Vignette 5 – Assessing for Depression in a Mental Health Appointment

    If a person feels sustained, intense, feelings of sadness or loss of interest in activities, they may have clinical depression. People also refer to this condition as major depressive disorder.

    However, there are small steps you can take to help you gain more agency in your life and improve your sense of well-being.

    Read on to learn how to incorporate these strategies in a way that makes sense for you.

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    Can I Diagnose Depression In Myself

    You cannot officially diagnose yourself with depression. You do need a healthcare professional for that, says Dr. Narasimhan.

    To assess you, a psychiatrist will use the criteria from a handbook for assessing and diagnosing mental illnesses thats known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition . You need to have at least five symptoms to receive a diagnosis of major depressive disorder. Your doctor will also consider the frequency and duration of your symptoms when making a diagnosis.

    Your doctor may also want to rule out other medical conditions that can sometimes cause symptoms of depression to appear. According to the American Psychiatric Association, a brain tumor, certain vitamin deficiencies, and thyroid disorders are among these conditions. Substance abuse and other mental health conditions can also cause similar symptoms.

    But that doesnt mean that you cant take a proactive role in learning more about your own mental and emotional well-being.

    You can learn the symptoms of depression and monitor yourself for them. Though, always remember that some people arent aware that certain feelings are actually symptoms of depression, even if they occur regularly.

    The bottom line: Recognizing and understanding your risk factors can put you at heightened awarenessand that may make it easier for you to seek help.

    How Do I Get Treatment After My Depression Screening

    Its important to remember: Depression can be treated.

    If your depression screening leads you to seek out a mental health professional for an evaluation, you may receive a diagnosis. There are numerous possible diagnoses two of the most common are major depression and persistent depressive disorder.

    Your recommended treatment will depend on your specific diagnosis. You might be a good candidate for an antidepressant or other medication. You may benefit from psychotherapy. Or you may find that a combination of medication, behavioral health strategies, and therapy are the most effective way to help you, along with some self-care measures.

    And its always possible to change things up if they dont work well. For example, if the first medication you try isnt effective or the dose is not right, your doctor can always adjust the dose or suggest that you switch antidepressants.

    Just as its important to be honest when answering the questions in a screening questionnaire, its important to be honest with your providerand yourselfabout what you are experiencing. Your provider needs to know what youre feeling so that you can get a correct diagnosis and effective treatment. Thats the only way youll be able to get the help that you need.

    Hiding it or minimizing it is not going to get you the help you need, Dr. Israel says.

    You can also use a depression screening tool to help you monitor your progress after receiving a diagnosis and beginning treatment.

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    What Happens At The Medical Assessment

    At the medical assessment a Healthcare Professional, which is an independent medically qualified assessor, will check how your mental health, particularly your depression symptoms, affects your ability to work.

    You should expect to be asked some questions related to your condition, as the Healthcare Professional looks for evidence to sustain your claim.

    Some ESA assessment of depression questions include:

    • Do you know what you are here for?
    • What is your diagnosis?
    • How long have you had this diagnosis?
    • How are the depression symptoms affecting your daily routine?
    • Do you have any hobbies or interests?
    • Do you have any suicidal thoughts?

    Be open and honest. Try to answer all the questions and as broadly as possible. Give facts, details, be exact about your struggles.

    The assessor doesnt make the decision about your ESA they make a recommendation to the DWP after your assessment.

    At your assessment, they wont be able to tell you what theyre going to recommend.

    You can get a copy of your assessment report by asking the DWP office thats looking after your claim.

    The phone number will be on any letters youve had from them about your ESA claim.

    You should know that you have to score 15 points in any individual activities, or a total of 15 points for a combination of the physical or mental activities, in order to meet the criteria for limited capability for work.

    If you score below 15 points, you are not entitled to ESA.

    What Is An Esa Assessment For Depression

    Depression Test Worksheet: Version 2

    An ESA assessment for depression is a medical evaluation carried out by a Healthcare Professional, that will look at the effects that depression has on your ability to carry out a range of everyday activities.

    If you score 15 points or more at the ESA assessment, you will meet the criteria for limited capability for work and will be awarded the benefit.

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    Do Something You Enjoy

    Depression can push you to give in to your fatigue. It may feel more powerful than preferred emotions.

    Try to push back and do something you love something thats pleasurable or meaningful. It could be playing an instrument, painting, hiking, or biking.

    The byproduct of engaging in meaningful activities can be a lift in your mood or energy, which can further motivate you to continue to engage in helpful activities that help with navigating symptoms.

    Research suggests that walks in nature may improve depressive symptoms in people with clinical depression.

    Time in natural spaces may improve mood and cognition, and lower the risk of mental health disorders. However, theres only limited research on the direct effect of nature on those with clinical depression.

    Consider taking a walk at lunch among the trees or spending some time in your local park. Or plan a weekend hike. These activities can help you reconnect with nature and soak in some rays at the same time.

    Hamilton Depression Rating Scale

    The Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, abbreviated HDRS, HRSD or HAM-D, measures depression in individuals before, during and after treatment. The scale is administered by a health care professionals and contains 21 items, but is scored based on the first 17 items, which are measured either on 5-point or 3-point scales. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete and score.

    Hamilton, M. . A rating scale for depression. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 23, 56-61.

    Trajkovi, G., Starevi, V., Latas, M., Letarevi, M., Ille, T., Bukumiri, Z., & Marinkovi, J. . Reliability of the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression: A meta-analysis over a period of 49 years. Psychiatry Research, 189, 1-9.

    More Information

    • is in the public domain and no permission is required for use.

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    What Is A Depression Screening

    A depression screening tool is just what it sounds like: a screening measure. Its designed to screen for symptoms of depression. It may be referred to colloquially as a depression test, but it isnt a true test like a blood pressure check that measures exact levels of something. Rather, a depression screening is an instrument that uses subjective answers to give a provider insight into your mental health.

    A depression screening is intended to identify symptoms that might put a person at risk for having depression, explains Crystal Clark, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine.

    A commonly used screening tool is the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 . Its a list of questions that asks you to think about things like your appetite and your energy levels. You complete this questionnaire so that you and your doctor can determine if youre frequently experiencing certain common symptoms of depression such as persistent sadness and loss of interest in your favorite activities.

    A screening flags many symptoms that you might have. Its an indicator that could help you decide when its time to see a mental health professional. Depending on what you score, youll know if you need to move forward or not, says Lindsay Israel, MD, a psychiatrist and the chief medical officer of Success TMS.

    Assess The Parts Instead Of Generalizing The Whole

    Psychiatric Interviews for Teaching: Mania

    Depression can tinge recollections with difficult emotions. You may find yourself focusing on things that are unhelpful or perceived as difficult.

    Try to stop this overgeneralization. Push yourself to recognize the good. If it helps, write down what was meaningful about the event or day. You can track what you achieved that day, and which activities were enjoyable.

    Seeing the weight youre giving to one thing may help you direct your thoughts away from the whole and to the individual pieces that were helpful.

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    Anxiety: Screening & Assessment

    A brief questionnaire such as the free, online Patient Health Questionnaire aids diagnosis and assesses severity of the depression. As a screening tool, the PHQ-9 can assist in diagnosis, and also serve as a symptom severity tracker to help assess the effectiveness of the treatment plan.

    Patient Health Questionnaire

    From the GTA: 416 535-8501Toll-free: 1 800 463-2338

    To Access CAMH Clinical Services

    416 535-8501, press 2

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