Am I depressed? What an obnoxious question to ask yourself! My earlier posts jumped immediately into specifics and details, such that preliminary comments were lacking. This is an attempt to cover some of the basics-a sort of primer.
Well, are you depressed? It is unlikely that you are searching the web for answers unless there is some suspicion of being depressed; that you are experiencing symptoms not explained by bodily ailments. The task is very challenging, since without professional help, you are attempting to arrive at a diagnosis by ruling out all possible conditions that could account for the unpleasant symptoms. I’ll let my readers in on a little pearl; this is much the same process doctors perform every day in their offices. It is hoped that greater education and experience will make their diagnosis more accurate than yours, but of course, there is no guarantee of this outcome.
So, given these hurdles, where do we start? I suggest writing down the distressing symptoms down on paper. What is more, write down any changes in your functioning, even if it is not distressing or unpleasant. Why? Many symptoms of depression are not unpleasant; for example weight loss or increased sleep in someone prone to insomnia. Most doctors will add up your symptoms in their cranium until a light pops on. The light may be one diagnosis or a group of diagnoses within a category, and further questions or tests will hopefully narrow the disorder to a single name. The trouble with this system is the unavoidable bias of humans, and the narrow focus of the human mind. This results in two major forms of diagnostic corruption; first, the practitioner diagnoses most patients with the disorder that they combat themselves, or second, the limited experience of each clinician narrows their focus to disorders that are not helpful to the patient. A prominent clinician in my area diagnosed nearly every patient with Attention Deficit Disorder. Many staff and patients joked about the doctor’s own attention deficit. While this is less common than the second type of error, do not depend on state or federal organizations from weeding out these clinicians. In fact, they may be quite popular and authoritative.
To help combat errors of bias and limited experience, I strongly recommend using a close friend or family member to discuss the validity of your symptoms. We only know ourselves through the eyes of others. If possible, I also recommend bringing in the trusted person into the initial session with the doctor as an informant. Even if the doctor route is not for you, than I still recommend using a trusted informant to discuss your symptoms prior to making a web search. It is a joke amongst psychology students how we perceive ourselves in every disorder while training. It is natural to say “that’s me” a thousand times while performing a mental health search on the web. For this reason, it is important not to make the web search in isolation. Please leave comments regarding this post in the space provided below.