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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

PHQ-9 is a questionnaire that is used to help assess the severity of depression. The name stands for patient health questionnaire, and 9 questions ask about different symptoms and how often you experience them.

Each answer is assigned a number of points out of 3, and once you add the points from the 9 questions, you will have a score out of 27.

If you score 5 points or more, this suggests mild depression severity, 10 points and more for moderate, 15 points and more for moderately severe, and 20 points or more for severe depression.

The questionnaire isn’t for diagnosing depression but for assessing severity.

Is depression common?

Depression is the most common mental health condition and affects many people worldwide, although it can affect people in different ways. It is a medical condition that can be serious. However, many cases of depression can improve over time with treatments such as lifestyle changes, talking therapies, and medication, but it is important to seek help early if you notice any persistent symptoms of depression.

When should I see my doctor?

You should book an appointment to see your doctor if you think you have depression. It is important to seek help early. You should speak to a medical professional urgently if you are having suicidal thoughts or have done, or plan to, self-harm. You can get urgent help via your doctor, 911, or by going to the Emergency Department, which is a safe place during a crisis.

What will the doctor do

Doctors or other healthcare professionals use the PHQ-9 questionnaire alongside their professional judgment to help assess the severity of depression and to track any changes over time or the course of treatment. They may also ask about your current symptoms, how long you’ve had them, your social situation, and your past medical history.

If your depression is mild, the doctor may recommend any relevant lifestyle changes and monitor your progress. They may also add in talking therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) - which works on learning about negative thoughts, how they affect how you feel, and how to process them and adapt those thoughts. The doctor will keep an eye on how you are doing and whether these interventions are helping.

If you have prolonged depression or moderate depression, the doctor may prescribe an antidepressant alongside talking therapy.

If you have severe depression, the doctor may refer you to a specialist mental health team for support alongside prescribing antidepressants and talking therapies. In a small number of cases of severe depression, the doctor may feel you are at significant risk to yourself, and they may refer you to the hospital.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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