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What Are 7 Depression Scales Used to Diagnose Adult Patients?

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Most of us have experienced periods of in our lives when we feel despondent. In many cases, the gloomy feeling passes, and we regain a sense of normalcy.

At times, however, the morose lingers and we can begin to wonder if clinical depression is at the root of our deflated mood.

Because symptoms of depression can vary from person-to-person, this mental health disorder that affects an estimated 1 in 15 adults in any given year can be difficult to diagnose.

Fortunately, healthcare professionals have tools at their disposal to help determine the severity of a patient’s symptoms. Most of these tools involve questionnaires or rating scales that when combined with clinical interviews can help doctors better understand symptoms, form a diagnosis, and create a treatment plan if necessary.

Tipping the scales

Clinicians use several different scales to diagnose and treat depression. They tend to be known more by acronyms than their official names. The method doctors use is often based on which one seems to fit best with adult patients.

The American Psychological Association lists the following scales among those relevant to the treatment of depression:

  1. HAM-D (or HDRS): In 1960, English psychiatrist Max Hamilton came up with the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, often abbreviated as Ham-D. A 17-item scale pertaining to symptoms of depression is used to create a score that determines the severity of depression. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete and score.
  2. BDI: The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) is widely used to screen for depression for people ages 13 to 80. It contains 21 self-report items which individuals complete using multiple choice response formats. The BDI takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.
  3. CES – D: The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) is designed for both children and adults. A four-point scale is used to measure answers to 20 questions that test takers answer. It takes about 20 minutes to administer and score.
  4. EQ-5D: This standardized test is used primarily to measure the quality of life of patients. It measures five areas related to lifestyle: mobility, self-care, usual activities, pain/discomfort, and anxiety/depression. The EQ-5D is available in a wide range of languages and is used worldwide. The questionnaire can be completed in five minutes.
  5. MADRS: The 10-item Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale is an adaptation of the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. It is for adults 18 and older and consists of 10 items that are rated on a seven-point scale. It can be completed in 20 to 30 minutes.
  6. SPSI-RTM: The Social Problem-Solving Inventory-Revised (SPSI-RTM) measures social problem-solving strengths and weaknesses in people 13 years old and older. It comes in both a long form with 52 questions and short form with 25 questions. It takes 10 to 20 minutes to complete.
  7. PHQ-9: The Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) is used in a variety of clinical settings to detect the presence and severity of depression. It asks nine questions whose answers are rated on a four-point scale. It takes five minutes or less to complete.

Bottom line

It’s important to not ignore or write off lingering symptoms of depression as just a bad week or bad month. If your sour mood has been around for more than two weeks, it may be time to seek help from a professional who can give you a depression assessment and discuss treatment options.

The APA notes that depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. It causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.

On the bright side, you are not alone! Depression is detectable and treatable.

See a licensed therapist virtually with an Ochsner Connected Anywhere visit.

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