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Screening tools

One of the issues in the pandemic has been how to conceptualize and measure the psychological distress in relation to the pandemic. Some are using measures of anxiety and depression, measures of health anxiety, various new narrow or broad Corona Anxiety Scales, and even measures of “Coronaphobia”.  We have adopted an adjustment and stress framework and consequently have identified the following measures as suitable for our purposes.

Screen for PTSD

The Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5 (PC-PTSD-5)


This is a brief four-item screen for PTSD designed for primary care.  It has already been used in several studies on the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

Prins, A., Bovin, M. J., Smolenski, D. J., Marx, B. P., Kimerling, R., Jenkins-Guarnieri, M. A., ... & Tiet, Q. Q. (2016). The primary care PTSD screen for DSM-5 (PC-PTSD-5): development and evaluation within a veteran primary care sample. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 31(10), 1206-1211.

Screen for Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorder is one way to conceptualize people’s reactions to the pandemic.  It is a more normalizing account of the distress and systems reported compared to framing these as signs of mental illness or indeed inventing new disorders.

The following article provides an overview of the concept of adjustment disorder.

O’Donnell, M. L., Agathos, J. A., Metcalf, O., Gibson, K., & Lau, W. (2019). Adjustment disorder: Current developments and future directions. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(14), 2537.

Screen for Adjustment Disorder

International Adjustment Disorder Questionnaire

This measure operationalizes ICD-11 criteria for Adjustment Disorder and is broadly compatible with DSM-5.  It has already been used in several studies on the pandemic.

Shevlin, M., Hyland, P., Ben‐Ezra, M., Karatzias, T., Cloitre, M., Vallières, F., ... & Maercker, A. (2020). Measuring ICD‐11 adjustment disorder: the development and initial validation of the International Adjustment Disorder Questionnaire. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 141(3), 265-274.

Screen for Burnout

Screen for Burnout

The concept of burnout is a well-established occupational condition although it has not been considered a diagnostic entity until recently.  The following single-item measure reportedly performs well against a single-item version of the most frequently used longer proprietary measure (which in turn performs well against the full scale 22-item proprietary measure).  It has already been used in several large scale studies over the years and in at least one study about the pandemic.

Dolan, E. D., Mohr, D., Lempa, M., Joos, S., Fihn, S. D., Nelson, K. M., & Helfrich, C. D. (2015). Using a single item to measure burnout in primary care staff: a psychometric evaluation. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 30(5), 582-587.

The origin and the use of this item are described in the previous article but can be traced back to: Schmoldt, R. A., Freeborn, D. K., & Klevit, H. D. (1994). Physician burnout: recommendations for HMO managers. HMO Practice, 8(2), 58-63.

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