Cases That Test Your Skills

Depression, or something else?

Author and Disclosure Information

Ms. A, age 60, presents with severe headaches and depression, including a suicide attempt. She’s also been repeatedly sorting through her neighbors’ trash. What’s underlying her symptoms?



CASE Suicidal behavior, severe headaches

Ms. A, age 60, presents to the emergency department (ED) with depression, suicidal behavior, and 3 days of severe headaches. Neurology is consulted and an MRI is ordered, which shows a 3.0-cm mass lesion in the left temporal lobe with associated vasogenic edema that is suspicious for metastatic disease (Figure).

MRI of Ms. A’s 3.0-cm metastatic brain tumor in the left temporal lobe with associated vasogenic edema

Ms. A is admitted to the hospital for further workup of her brain lesion. She is started on IV dexamethasone, 10 mg every 6 hours, a glucocorticosteroid, for brain edema, and levetiracetam, 500 mg twice a day, for seizure prophylaxis.

Upon admission, in addition to oncology and neurosurgery, psychiatry is also consulted to evaluate Ms. A for depression and suicidality.

EVALUATION Mood changes and poor judgment

Ms. A has a psychiatric history of depression and alcohol use disorder but says she has not consumed any alcohol in years. Her medical history includes hypertension, diabetes, and stage 4 non-small–cell lung cancer, for which she received surgery and adjuvant chemoradio­therapy 1 year ago.

On initial intake, Ms. A reports that in addition to the headaches, she has also been experiencing worsening depression and suicidal behavior. For the past 2 months, she has had a severely depressed mood, with notable anhedonia, poor appetite, insomnia, low energy, and decreased concentration. The changes in her mental health were triggered by her mother’s death. Three days prior to admission, the patient planned to overdose on anti­hypertensive pills, but her suicide attempt was interrupted when her family called. She denies any current suicidal ideation, intent, or plan.

According to her family, Ms. A has been increasingly irritable and her personality has changed in the past month. She also has been repeatedly sorting through her neighbors’ garbage.

Ms. A’s current psychiatric medications are duloxetine, 30 mg/d; quetiapine, 50 mg every night at bedtime; and buspirone, 10 mg/d. However, it is unclear if she is consistently taking these medications.

Continue to: On mental status examination...


Next Article: