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Personality can hamper a physician's assessment of depression
Date:9/24/2008

A physician's personality can affect practice behavior in inquiries about patient mood symptoms and the diagnosis of depression, according to a study led by University of Rochester Medical Center researchers.

"Some doctors, due to their personal preferences, traits or attitudes, are loathe to broach sensitive topics such as depression or suicide," said Paul R. Duberstein, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at the Medical Center and lead author of an article on the study published online this month by the Journal of General Internal Medicine. "There is not one right way to do this. A physician does not have to undergo a personality change to ask patients about depression. But physicians should reflect on the possibility that their personal traits might have implications for their approach to the assessment of depression and perhaps other mental health concerns."

Some physicians, who are reluctant to inquire about depression and suicide or who are unnerved by the inquiry, could use a screening questionnaire, said Duberstein. Some practices should hire mental health specialists.

Treatment for depression often is sought initially from a primary care physician. But inquiries about depression and suicide could challenge a physician, emotionally and intellectually. Primary care physicians also have a limited time frame to collect information about many subjects, including sensitive issues such as depression.

"It is not surprising, therefore, that depression is frequently not diagnosed and physicians often do not inquire about suicidal thoughts," the article's authors state.

The researchers analyzed data, audiotapes and medical records from a study in which six actors, all of women were women, were trained to portray a patient with major depression or one with adjustment disorder with depressed mood. With prior physician consent and the cooperation of health plans, the actor-patients received insurance cards and other p
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Contact: Michael Wentzel
Michael_Wentzel@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-1309
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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