Interpretation of Positive Depression Screening on the PHQ

The PHQ-2/9 is one of, if not the most, used screening measure for depression. It is implemented in a standardized manner into treatment outcome research and patient-based care initiatives. However, interpreting what scores represent amongst the broad spectrum of internalizing spectrum of pathology is critical. Despite items representing ‘depression’ criteria (A1-A9; DSM-5), these experiences are not unique to depressed individuals. Evaluating screening with the MMPI-3 offers a way to examine interpretative meaning using a new, highly validated broadband measure. Following up to a paper under review by Nicole Morris, presented at the 2021 MMPI symposium, I was playing around with data visualization.

The role of positive screening on the PHQ-9 (cut-score 10) was most associated with self-doubt; a trend which wasn’t entirely consistent on the PHQ-2 (cut-score 3). While Self-Doubt (SFD; Navy line) maintained a major role, helplessness was the stand-out (HLP; Green Line). Different item content let to distinctive internalizing symptoms as the driving aspect of a positive screening.

PHQ-9
PHQ-2

Published by Dr. Ingram's Psychology Research Lab

I'm an assistant professor of counseling psychology at Texas Tech University and an active researcher of psychological assessment, veterans, and treatment engagement. I am also in private practice here in Lubbock Texas.

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