We’re all familiar with the physical checkup; many people see their family physician at regular intervals to make sure their blood pressure or cholesterol levels are not too high. The doctor also performs routine physicals to determine if any signs of disease are present.
Because nearly one out of four adults in the United States suffers from some kind of mental health issue, which can affect our physical health and interfere with work and personal relationships, regular mind health checkups are also a good thing to consider.
The simplest approach is to ask your general practitioner to check for any mental health symptoms during your standard physical. This might seem like something you shouldn’t have to ask — but unfortunately, not all doctors include a mental examination in their regular checkups.
The physician has little time to systematically check for symptoms of depression or memory loss. So unless the patient complains about it, those symptoms can be missed. In addition, when depressed patients meet with their doctor, they may only complain only about their physical symptoms of depression, such as insomnia, weight loss, and fatigue — and the actual diagnosis may be missed.
One solution is for medical doctors to use a standardized screening tool — such as a patient health questionnaire — for depression and memory loss at every checkup. These questionnaires can be given to patients in the waiting room prior to their appointment.
These questionnaires involve answering a list of standardized questions, and the patterns of response can trigger the doctor to perform a more detailed assessment. The idea is not for patients to diagnose themselves but to alert the doctor to investigate their symptoms more earnestly when appropriate. If your doctor does not use these kinds of screening tools, don’t be shy — speak up about any mental symptoms you may be experiencing.
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