Do You Screen Your Nutrition Clients for Depression?

Julie Stefanski MEd, RDN, CSSD, LDN, CDE While the word “hangry” was only added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2018, the connection between our food choices and our mood is clear to anyone who’s ever gotten testy when mealtime was delayed or turned to a comfort food for emotional support. October 11, 2018 is National Depression Screening Day https://mentalhealthscreening.org/media/fact-sheet-national-depression-screening-day. Registered Dietitian Nutritionists are in a unique position to screen for mental health issues including depression that may not have been addressed appropriately. While clients may seek help regarding excessive weight gain or weight loss from a dietitian, those two nutrition issues are just one example of a possible side effect from an underlying psychological issue such as anxiety or depression. Jennifer Pelton, LCSW, a licensed social worker in York, PA points out that depression can take many forms depending on the persons' identified type of disorder according to the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Pelton explained, “There are a few types of patterns an RD may identify in a client. One type could be someone who can’t perform daily activities due to extreme lack of energy and engagement in everyday jobs/roles. Another person may be over eating or using binge type behaviors in order to compensate for negative emotions, and is using eating as a form of coping.” Screen for Depression During the task of gathering medical and social history on a client, a dietitian may casually pick up on signs of depression, but there are also some tools to assist healthcare providers in screening for depression including PHQ-9 or Mood and feelings Questionnaire (MFQ) – short version. Dietitians should be on the lookout for other food related [...]