Depression during hospitilization

Under most circumstances, staying in a hospital can be a challenging experience. Aside from dealing with the actual reason for your hospitalization, there are also psychological factors to deal with such as anxiety and stress. These factors can have direct effects on your recovery and willingness to follow your doctor’s orders. Understanding the mental state of patients can help doctors and patients address the patient’s needs holistically, in addition to managing the primary reason for their hospitalization.

A recent study in the Journal of Hospital Medicine revealed that one in three hospital patients show symptoms of depression. This is not surprising given that most visits to the hospital are due to serious medical issues.  Some patients may enter the hospital already depressed or prone to depression. Around 7% of the population experiences at least one major depressive episode in their lifetime. Additionally, complex medical issues and a stay in a hospital might just be enough to trigger a depressive episode in certain people.

No matter what the cause of your hospitalization is, you are likely to be subjected to a routine battery of tests. Blood pressure, heart rate, and blood tests are part of routine care. The goal of these standard procedures is to get a broader view of your physical well-being.  Psychological screenings should also be considered routine care given that we now understand the close link between our mental and physical well-being. Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health challenges and are exactly the kind of issues we may experience when hospitalized.

Cedar-Sinai Medical Center has studied the connection between physical and mental well-being, related especially to depression.  The medical center has implemented the results of their research into practice. Patients admitted to the hospital are given a screener for depression in addition to other routine evaluations. Patients who show symptoms of depression are screened further and provided with resources as appropriate. The goal is to help treat the depression so the hospitalized patient has an opportunity to heal faster, adhere to medical care instructions and to return for any necessary follow-up appointments.

The program at Cedar-Sinai is encouraging but hopefully, it is only the beginning. Anxiety is also a common struggle for hospital patients. Although the research at Cedar-Sinai did not include anxiety, it would be a simple matter to also screen for symptoms of anxiety. For both depression and anxiety, these screeners can help identify individuals struggling with mental health challenges whether from their current condition of from chronic struggles of which even the patient may be unaware.