It made the news this past week — researchers have found what they believe to be a blood test that may identify depression in teenagers. But some write-ups of the news got the importance of this possible test completely wrong.
Melissa Healy, writing for the LA Times, for instance, suggested in her opening sentence that, “Even among psychiatric disorders, depression is a difficult disease to diagnose.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Depression is so easy to diagnose, in fact, that family doctors — who have no special training in psychiatric disorders — feel perfectly qualified to do it every day. You simply ask a person about 9 possible symptoms, and if they agree to 5 or more of them, and have felt that way longer than 2 weeks, they likely have depression.
In fact, it’s so easy to diagnose, we have an online 8 question depression quiz that research has shown can screen for depression nearly as accurately as a professional.
So what’s the real significance of this potential blood test for depression? And what unintended consequences might it have?
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