Self-diagnosing mental health issues should be avoided
Juggling university, part-time work and extra curriculars is a catalyst for poor mental health. To determine what is normal and abnormal, we have the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), a standard classification manual published by the American Psychiatric Association to guide professionals in their diagnoses. Yet these guidelines should be complemented by professional expertise, and as a standalone diagnostic tool are regarded by many as incomplete.
Today’s internet age gives everyone access to medical information and long lists of symptoms that can harm them in ways they often don’t perceive. If I type “Do I have..” in the Google search engine, the top three hits are for depression, anxiety and ADHD.
According to the CBC, one of the results of self-diagnosis is cyberchondria, a term used to define the anxiety produced by self-diagnosis. There are numerous reasons why people experience negative emotions, and mental health problems can be telling of physical health problems that are overlooked or exaggerated. I believe everyone should get routine checkups and, if a problem arises, seek professional help. You do not want to delay a treatable illness by relying on the conglomerate of information available on what some call “Dr. Google.”
As a student in the last semester of my undergrad, I have had to cut back on my hours at work and increase time at the gym in order to maintain my mental health and focus. I, too, am culpable of diagnosing myself with attention deficit disorder and depression at different points in my life, but I have also met with professionals to obtain accurate information. Words like ADD, bipolar and depression are tossed into conversation frivolously, consequently blurring the distinction between normal mood changes and mental illness. This, in turn risks minimizing the gravity of a person’s personal experience with mental illness.
I took a psychology course in CEGEP, and my professor explained that in order to be diagnosed with depression, symptoms should persist for at least two weeks and the person should exhibit at least five of the symptoms listed in the DSM-V. These guidelines are used by professionals to diagnose clinical depression, which differs from situational depression in its duration and severity.
The technological age has given people the freedom to post whatever they choose online without censorship. Therefore, we use this terminology to describe erratic behaviour and the “abnormal.”
One of the most misunderstood mood disorders is depression, due to the complexity of the brain as well as the spectrum of depression and its ability to recur even after treatment. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression has risen worldwide by 18 per cent since 2005, and many people are not getting effective treatment due to stigma and lack of support.
Full-time students at Concordia are eligible for 10 free sessions with a psychotherapist on campus. They can also book an appointment with a learning specialist at the Student Success Centre. These services, along with good coping skills and relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation are much better alternatives to self-diagnosis and will get you closer to receiving the help you need.
Graphic by Ana Bilokin