Risks of Self Diagnosising Depression
Why is Self-diagnosing Depression Dangerous?
“In today’s busy world, it can be hard for many patients to find time to meet with their doctors. On top of that, doctors often feel rushed when speaking to patients. Shorter office visits, coupled with the rise in online search, mean patients can feel tempted to self-diagnose their symptoms through Doctor Google.
This is a particular problem when it comes to mental health conditions like depression. Physical health problems can be easier and quicker to diagnose because doctors can order diagnostic tests that show real, concrete data. Blood tests and MRIs or CT scans come to mind. But when it comes to uncovering and diagnosing depression, patients need plenty of time to talk to their doctors about their feelings and changes in their behavior and mood for a proper diagnosis.
Why is self-diagnosis risky?
Self-diagnosis implies that the individual understands the subtleties and nuances involved in a complicated mental health disorder like depression. But depression comes in many different subcategories, that all require their own particular method of treatment. For example, people who suffer from mood swings may think they have bipolar disorder. But mood swings can be indicative of many different issues, including stress, hormonal imbalances, a personality disorder, or another neurological problem.
A doctor or mental health professional will understand these subtleties and nuances so that patients can avoid a misdiagnosis. Self-diagnosis can also misdirect the doctor as well as the patient.
Why is a misdiagnosis dangerous?
Patients who are misdiagnosed run the risk of trying medications or other therapies that can make their problem worse. Or they can waste precious time on a treatment that does nothing for them. Depression that is left untreated can become more and more severe. With severe depression, suicide is a risk, as well as psychosis which can be distressing and potentially dangerous.
What is the biggest danger that can happen when someone tries to self-diagnose depression?
One of the most dangerous risks when it comes to self-diagnosing a mental health condition is that the patient can mistake a serious physical condition for a mental disorder. Thyroid disorder and heart disease can mimic or produce depressive symptoms. When someone believes they have clinical depression based on a dubious self-diagnosis, they can miss an underlying heart condition, which can lead to a heart attack, stroke, and death.
Also, sometimes cancerous brain tumors can cause people to experience psychological symptoms. If someone assumes they have depression and begins to treat that and only that, a brain tumor can continue to grow until it is too late to reverse the course of the disease. The ultimate risk people face when self-diagnosing any mental health disorder, not just depression, is permanent disability and death.
It’s true that some people may not want conventional medical treatment for depression. Many depressed patients can recover from their symptoms with therapy or deep brain stimulation techniques. But these patients may want conventional treatment for serious physical conditions like cancer or heart disease.
What could happen if someone mistakes normal feelings of grief for serious clinical depression?
The death of a loved one, or experiencing another significant loss will lead to a period of grief and mourning. To the untrained eye, normal feelings of grief can be mistaken for clinical depression. It’s important to note the distinctions.
If someone who is experiencing normal feelings of grief mistakes it for depression, they run the risk of misdirecting their physician or even trying OTC remedies that may produce dangerous side effects. For example, St. John’s Wort is a popular OTC treatment for depression. But it can create feelings of anxiety in patients at-risk for these symptoms.
What are the differences between normal grief and depression?
- When a person is grieving, they will still experience fleeting moments of happiness. When someone is depressed, the feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness are constant and pervasive.
- Depressed patients will lack the ability to feel pleasure and joy from things that would typically bring them happiness. Lack of pleasure is a common symptom of depression. When someone is grieving, they will still be able to feel joy with activities that would typically make them happy.
- Aches and pains are a common symptom in depression. A person who is grieving will have aches and pains with no discernable physical cause.
- Self-esteem is severely impacted during an episode of major depression. With grief, self-esteem is intact. A grieving person may feel guilt related directly to the loss or death, but they will not experience pervasive feelings of shame or self-loathing that is typical in depression.
- Thoughts of suicide and self-harm are common in cases of moderate to severe depression. A person who is grieving may think of death as a way to be reunited with a loved one. Depressed patients will think of suicide as an escape from emotional pain or because they feel overwhelming shame or self-loathing.
It’s crucial for a doctor or an experienced clinician to make the distinction between normal grief and depression. For patients who may fear that they are depressed, self-diagnosis and OTC treatments are not the answer. Many of the symptoms present in depression can be present in serious physical diseases as well. It’s vital to a patient’s safety and also their prognosis to make an informed distinction between these subtle nuances. Without a definitive diagnosis, patients can worsen their health outcomes.
How is depression diagnosed?
No lab test can determine if a patient is depressed or not. But lab tests can rule out physical health problems that can mimic depression. For a diagnosis of depression, a doctor or mental health professional will need to run a series of diagnostic questions to uncover depression symptoms and make sense of any nuances and subtleties. Patients need to spend time with their doctor discussing their changes in mood, physical symptoms, and behavior. From there, a doctor can prescribe medication, therapy, or other deep brain stimulation techniques to alleviate the patient’s symptoms.
If you suspect you’re suffering from major depressive disorder, do not hesitate to get a professional diagnosis. Contact an experienced mental health professional today to explore your treatment options and find relief from depression symptoms.