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.


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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