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HEALTH REPORT – August 21, 2002: Testing for Depression - 2002-08-20

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Depression is a medical condition that causes intense feelings of sadness. Depression interferes with daily life.

Common signs of depression are lack of energy, loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, difficulty thinking, problems sleeping or eating and thoughts of death. Depression also can be hidden by physical problems such as headache, back pain, and stomach sickness.

Often, people suffering depression do not realize their feelings of sadness are due to a medical condition. They do not seek medical treatment.

Medical experts say depression can affect anyone. There is no way to prevent it. However, the disease can be treated successfully. The sooner an affected person gets medical help, the better the chances of a quick and full recovery.

Depression is a common illness in the United States. It affects about twenty-million adults. However, as many as two-thirds of them do not seek medical treatment for depression.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force is a group of health experts. The group examines published research and makes suggestions about preventive health care.

The Preventive Services Task Force recently published a study that says doctors should test all adult patients for depression during normal office visits. Alfred Berg of the University of Washington in Seattle led the study. Doctor Berg says there is no evidence that one method of testing for depression works better than another method. He says asking two simple questions worked as well as using more complex methods.

The two questions are: “Have you felt sad or hopeless during the past two weeks?” And, “Have you felt little interest or happiness in doing things?” If a patient answered “yes” to either question, the doctor asked more detailed questions. These questions helped establish whether the problems were temporary or if they had lasted longer than a normal time. The questions also established if the problems interfered with the patient’s daily activities.

Medical experts say patients can be successfully treated for depression with medicines or by talking with a trained professional who treats mental disorders.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Lawan Davis.