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What's in your head? Study suggests a psychiatric self-test can tell you

March 8, 2010 |  4:08 pm

Brain Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder .... Maybe you could, or should, just screen yourself for these conditions.

A study published online Monday in the Annals of Family Medicine found that a simple 27-item questionnaire shows promise in effectively screening potential patients for a variety of psychiatric disorders. That's the conclusion of researchers at the University of North Carolina who asked 647 adults at a family medicine clinic to test themselves while in the waiting room. The whole thing took less than five minutes. 

In fact, write the researchers, the one-stop-shopping diagnostic tool called the M-3 (explained later) was as effective as screening tools for individual disorders. They're optimistic about its potential, especially in the primary-care setting, noting that many folks are inclined to simply consider depression or anxiety, not a profusion of possible diagnoses.

That's not to say a doctor would glance at a checklist and write a prescription based on the answers, but those answers could help shape effective followup inquiry. As the authors write in their conclusion:  

"As with all screening instruments, the M-3 seeks to efficiently identify patients at high risk for one or
more specific psychiatric conditions. However, while the M-3 increases the likelihood of identifying a patient experiencing a psychiatric illness, the M-3 by itself is not a definitive diagnostic instrument. Indeed, as a screening tool, the M-3 screen was more likely to identify a risk of psychiatric illness than was confirmed by diagnostic interview."

Here's the full study. And here's the test, as published in the journal, and as offered by My Mood Monitor (hence the M-3 reference above). M-3 Information paid for the study.

Go ahead. Test yourself. (It's almost as much fun as the Patient Safety IQ Quiz.)

-- Tami Dennis

Photo credit: Custom Medical Stock