Q is for Quiz

Q is for QUIZ

Mood disorders consist of a cascade of symptoms, which run along a continuum from mild to severe, so it can be quite easy to be misdiagnosed or missed altogether. As you know, mental illnesses cannot be diagnosed via tests, whether it’s using blood, urine or any other delightful bodily fluid. Even fancy schmancy machines like MRIs can only LOOK at your brain, but they can’t tell you what’s actually happening in it. The problem is that many mental illnesses present in similar ways. For instance, I didn’t get diagnosed for Bipolar II until I was in my FORTIES. And alert readers know I was diagnosed with OCD and Depression in my early 20s.

I have decided to list some (but by no means all) of the many questions a person gets asked when their mental health is being evaluated. Then, in parentheses, I’ll tell you (where I can) what I think the questions are trying/intended to discover in the first place.

BUYER BEWARE: Remember, I’m not a doctor. And this information is by no means comprehensive. I’m just very experienced with being a person whose mental health is evaluated periodically over the last four-plus decades. Still, there are plenty of mood disorders I am leaving out owing to my lack of experience and awareness. That being said, the following might give you things to keep in mind when you or your loved one is going through tough times, and will likely be asked many of these questions.

  • Do you feel sad? (Basic starting point probing for Depression, Bipolar, Seasonal Affective Disorder [SAD])
  • Have you felt sad for a long time? (Depression, Bipolar, SAD)
  • Have you told anyone you’re sad? (inquiring about support systems)
  • Is your appetite greater than usual? (Depression, Bipolar, SAD)
  • Is your appetite smaller than usual? (Depression, Bipolar, SAD)
  • Are you gaining weight? (Depression, Bipolar, SAD)
  • Are you losing weight? (Depression, Bipolar, SAD)
  • Are you having trouble sleeping? (Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder [GAD], Bipolar, SAD)
  • Are you sleeping too much? (Depression, Bipolar, SAD)
  • Is it hard to get up in the morning? (Depression, Bipolar, SAD)
  • Do you have negative thoughts about yourself? (Depression, Bipolar, SAD)
  • Do you feel the need to check things repeatedly once they’re done? (doors, windows, stove) (OCD)
  • Are you anxious? (OCD, GAD, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder)
  • Are you anxious about germs? (OCD, GAD)
  • Are you jumpy? (OCD, GAD, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar)
  • Do you feel great for a period of time and then sad for a period of time? (Bipolar)
  • Do you sometimes have too much energy? (Bipolar, Anxiety Disorders)
  • Do you do impulsive things, like spend lots of money or drive too fast? (Bipolar)
  • Do you sometimes not have enough energy?(Bipolar, Depression)
  • Are you avoiding social activities? (Depression, Bipolar, Social Anxiety, GAD)
  • Are you avoiding family? (Depression, Bipolar, Social Anxiety, GAD)
  • Are you avoiding work or school? (Depression, Bipolar, Social Anxiety, GAD)
  • Have you been cancelling plans with others for some time now? (Depression, Bipolar, Social Anxiety, GAD)
  • Do you get tired and sad in the fall and winter months? (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
  • Do you get angry or irritable easily? (intermittent Explosive Disorder, Bipolar, Depression)
  • Have you been violent? (Intermittent Explosive Disorder)
  • Do you hear things other people can’t hear? (Schizophrenia, Bipolar)
  • Do you see things other people can’t see? (Schizophrenia, Bipolar)
  • Do you feel that life is no longer worth living? (Pretty much any mood disorder, but ESPECIALLY Bipolar, Depression and Schizophrenia)
  • What are your protective factors? (people/pets/work you love and live for) [it helps to have lots of these!]
  • Do you have thoughts about hurting yourself? (Depression, Bipolar, SAD, Schizophrenia) This is called suicidal ideation. It means the person could potentially be in great danger.)
  • Have you made plans to hurt yourself? (Don’t worry about WHAT it is, just get to the ER or a Psych hospital for intervention and support)
  • Have you tried to hurt yourself? (See above, and If yes, go to ER or Psych hospital IMMEDIATELY)

As you can see, one question can often cover several potential diagnoses for mood disorders. Now perhaps you see how difficult it is to determine exactly which brain-based disorder is causing so much pain to any given individual. It’s truly a puzzle that needs to be put together to understand.

While it’s good to have an awareness of the range of mental health disorders that exist, don’t forget that you’re not an expert, and neither are most people in the world. The best thing you can do for yourself or your loved one, is to do research; but please, research responsibly. Do not go onto random sites that may have zero credibility. There are all kinds of things out there that are wrong, dumb, or downright dangerous. Try, as I’ve mentioned before in this series, to go to reputable sites, like NIMH (National Institute for Mental Health) or reputable, university-affiliated hospitals like Johns Hopkins or the Lahey Clinic. They are accurate, up-to-the minute, and have other resources you can explore.

And remember, you can always get a second opinion. And a third, if need be.

Or, if you’re like me, and you move on average every five to seven years, a fourth, fifth, sixth, AND seventh.

(God, I wish I was kidding.)

I truly hope this helps. Our brains are, ultimately, mysterious to all of us. All we can do is try to work with them as best as we can.

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Emi Jean

Emi Jean

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