Why Depression And Mental Health Screening Are So Important

Did you know that many people who are struggling with mental health conditions do not even realize that they are sick? As opposed to symptoms of a physical illness like a cold, the symptoms of a mental illness may be vague or diffuse enough not to alert someone who is suffering that there is even a problem. 

After all, the symptoms of anxiety and depression, the two most common mental illnesses among Americans, can seem at first glance to be only unusually persistent or severe manifestations of emotions like fear and anger that everybody sometimes feels. And so, especially if someone is afraid of the stigma that suffering from a mental illness might bring or lacks access to or information about mental health care, they may try to brush off these symptoms instead of seeking the appropriate treatment for them, letting the patterns of negative thoughts and feelings persist and become ever more entrenched. 

Even worse, someone may then try to self medicate these symptoms away with a dangerous habit like the excessive use of drugs or alcohol, which will likely only compound the original problem. Thus, some people only become aware that they are suffering from a mental illness after they seek treatment for the addiction they have developed in an attempt to cope with it. 

This is just one of the many reasons that mental health professionals have named October National Depression And Mental Health Screening Month. Though as many as one in four Americans are thought to suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year, only half of them actually receive treatment. More frequent screenings could be a way to get more people the help they need by making them aware that there is in issue, and could also help pick up on common mental illnesses in demographic groups where they are thought to be underrecognized-for example, in older adults. 

Simple screening tests like those linked to in the source section below exist for almost every mental illness, from addiction itself to many conditions that could be found to exist comorbidly to it, including but not limited to depression, psychosis, bipolar disorder, anxiety, eating disorders, and post traumatic stress disorder. 

While these tests are no substitute for professional guidance, they can be a decent first step when it comes to determining if a certain pattern of behavior is worth worrying about. In the worst case scenario, you’ve just wasted a few minutes and perhaps ruled out a scary possibility, but if you are in fact suffering from a psychological condition for which receiving treatment could greatly enhance your well being, what you’ve uncovered could change your life. 

Symptoms Of Depression 

Since depression is the particular focus of this month’s screening awareness campaign and is so commonly correlated with addiction, let’s take a closer look into it. Thanks to the pandemic, Americans are now experiencing higher levels of depression than ever before, with the figure actually increasing by more than three fold as it rose from 8.5 percent to 27.8 percent in spring of 2020 and then up to 32.8 percent in spring of 2021. Even though some level of sadness seems like a reasonable reaction to the absurd circumstances necessitated by the coronavirus, sadness that has become incapacitating still poses a serious risk to your emotional well being if not dealt with appropriately.

For instance, about a third of people with depression also have problems controlling their alcohol intake and about a fourth also struggle with abuse of other substances. Even more gravely, though only a small percentage of people with depression ever attempt or commit suicide, underlying depression is though to play a part in at least two thirds of suicide deaths. But when depression is appropriately treated, the lifetime risk of suicide drops from around 20 percent to less than even .1 percent. 

As laid out in the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the official diagnostic criteria for depression involves someone experiencing five or more of the following symptoms during a single two week period,  as long as they are not better accounted for by acute grief or another psychiatric or physical condition.

  1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day 
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  4. Psychomotor agitation (eg, speaking or moving more or more quickly than usual) or retardation (eg, speaking or moving less or less quickly than usual) nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  5. Insomnia or hypersomnia (being overly sleepy) nearly every day.
  6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  7. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  8. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  9. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

If you think that a significant number of these criteria describe you, you may want to contact your mental health provider for more information about obtaining a depression diagnosis and treatment. But if you are dealing with a substance abuse problem that is complicating or worsening these symptoms, or are worried about someone who is, we may be able to help you at Delray Beach Intensive Outpatient.

Here at Delray Beach Intensive Outpatient, we understand how intimately addiction and other mental health challenges are connected. Our individualized approach will address these mental health challenges through therapy provided by seasoned, masters level professionals as well as through medication when and if appropriate. Immersive activities designed to foster holistic wellness and group therapy that will provide a sense of community and support also add to the healing atmosphere.

To learn more about Delray Beach Intensive Outpatient and how we can help you conquer your addiction along with any other mental health issues you may be struggling with, feel free to reach out to us today at 833.637.033.