Depression screenings should be routine part of health care

- October is Depression Awareness Month, and serves as a reminder that clinical depression is a common medical illness affecting more than 16 million adults in the United States each year.

Like screenings for other illnesses, depression screenings should be a routine part of health care.

What is a depression screening? Whether online or in person, they include questions such as: Have you been feeling down, depressed or upset lately? Or have you thought about harming yourself?    

But he says there are other warning signs of depression that are less obvious. 

Your doctor may ask how your sleep has been - are you getting too much sleep or are you having trouble sleeping? Or what about eating habits or enjoyment of life? 

Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Joseph Rock says that for people who are having persistent feelings of being down, the best thing to do is to start talking about it.  

"You probably want to go to somebody that's got some professional expertise and you don't have to get committed to therapy or you don't have to start taking anti-depressant medication, but maybe you just want to find out if this is something that I need to worry about or don't need to worry about," he says. 

Dr. Rock says that sometimes depression is a result of genetics - a biochemical reaction to the body - and it's not brought on by any particular life event. Other times, though, a catastrophic life event can bring it on: the loss of a spouse, a child or even a job. Getting help for depression is becoming less-stigmatized because it's being talked about more openly in the media, making it easier for more people to seek help, especially men.

"Basketball players - and there have been baseball players, football players, celebrity athletes that have come out - and that's particularly helpful, I think, for men, because these are people who are supposed to be "macho" and it really breaks down the stigma a lot," Dr. Rock says. 

Dr. Rock says that it's better to get help for depression sooner rather than waiting to see if it will go away on its own, because it can take a physical toll on the body as well.  

Depression has been linked to health problems including heart disease, diabetes, obesity and substance abuse.  
 

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