Stop asking ‘Dr Google’ if you’re depressed

Monday December 4 2017

Dr Punatar

Dr Punatar 

By Dr Priyank Punatar

When was the last time you ‘googled’ your symptoms and thought you had a medical problem suggested by its search results?
It is inevitably tempting for people to nowadays self-diagnose themselves and others with information and medical knowledge when it is just a phone away.
The most common self-diagnosed condition is depression.  
In my practice, over a period of time, I have at numerous occasions come across patients and people who misuse and overuse the term ‘depression’.
Even in our day to day lives, we often hear people say - “I am so depressed”, “oh, this is so depressing” etc.
Is it really depression? Or is it just sadness? Is it just feeling low or sad temporarily? It’s always important to answer these simple questions before labelling someone or something as depressed or depressing.

Depression vs sadness
There is more than a fine line between feeling sad and being depressed and more often than not, people aren’t able to see that line clearly and a lot of emotions and situations are overlapped.
Depression is often misconceived as a symptom; Rather, it is a common and serious mood disorder. It’s not a single symptom, but in fact it causes severe symptoms that affect how one feels, thinks and handles daily activities - such as sleeping, eating or working.
According to the International Classification of Disease (ICD), there is a set criteria put aside to uniformly and accurately diagnose depression.
These criteria is a combination of symptoms and duration of symptoms, which enables a clinician to conclude whether someone is depressed or is he/she simply in a temporary phase of sadness or low mood.

The outlined criteria include:
Persistent sadness and/or low mood, loss of interests or pleasure in activities and hobbies that was exciting and pleasurable previously and fatigue and/or low energy
At least one of the above three main symptoms lasts for two weeks or more, along with any of the following seven associated symptoms:
Low self-confidence, feeling of hopelessness, poor and disturbed sleep, guilt or self-blame, worthlessness and helplessness, suicidal thoughts or acts, poor concentration, focus and indecisiveness, poor or increased appetite and agitation or slowing of movements.
The next time you don’t get a movie ticket, or your favourite restaurant is closed when you plan to have a meal there, take a moment to think about the above before claiming that you are “depressed”.
There are many people out there battling with depression and all they need is some understanding, assurance and empathy.  By self-diagnosing, you may be missing something or you may think there is something wrong with you than what the reality might tell.
Hence, self-diagnosis can have tremendous negative repercussions on a person.
While reading is helpful and informative, it is always best to discuss your impressions with a doctor before you conclude on a particular medical diagnosis for yourself and also before you decide on the kind of treatment you want.