Using five questions to screen for five common mental disorders in primary care: diagnostic accuracy of the Anxiety and Depression Detector

Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2006 Mar-Apr;28(2):108-18. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2005.08.010.


Objective: Primary care providers are increasingly taking on the role of ad hoc mental health provider. However, before patients in primary care can be treated, they must be identified. This study set out to validate a very brief screening instrument for identifying primary care patients with anxiety and depression.

Method: Eight hundred one primary care patients completed a questionnaire screening for (1) panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social phobia, or (2) panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depression. Screening was followed by a diagnostic interview. The properties of the questionnaires were examined to identify a small set of items that effectively and efficiently screened for panic disorder, PTSD, social phobia, GAD and depression.

Results: Five items were selected across the two versions of the questionnaire, comprising the Anxiety and Depression Detector (the ADD). The sensitivities for the items ranged from 0.62 to 1.00, and the specificity values ranged from 0.56 to 0.83. When a "yes" answer to any of the screening questions was used to predict the presence of any diagnosis, sensitivity values were 0.92 to 0.96 and specificity values were 0.57 to 0.82. Sensitivity and specificity values varied little by gender, age or ethnicity.

Conclusions: The five items of the ADD appear to comprise a useful screening device for anxiety and depressive disorders in primary care settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • California
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • United States
  • Washington