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Common misconception: You know if you are depressed!

Posted Aug 23 2008 3:19pm

Time and time again I hear people claim that if you were suffering from depression you would know and I wonder how often this misconception is preventing people from seeking help when they need it. Reading the question " Therapy now or later? " made me think about that this again.

I do not know if the people are basing the claim "You know if you are depressed" on personal experience or not and whilst it may well be true that some (who knows, maybe it's even most people?) know that they have depression and didn't need a diagnosis from a medical professional. I can tell you that I did not think I had depression (other people get depression!), did not suffer from anxiety anymore than anyone else (I am completely in control and can't possibly have anxiety!) and I was absolutely 100% certain that I wasn't a perfectionist (I wasn't good enough to be a perfectionist!).

The only reason I discovered I was depressed was because things got so bad that my wife left me and I thought going to the doctors might help get her back. If it has been suggested that you are suffering from depression and you aren't so sure then I would recommend the following:-

  1. Listen to the person suggesting you are depressed.

    You don't have to agree with them but you will certainly learn things by listening to them. It could be that they need help themselves, they might have some valuable experience of depression but they are almost certainly are trying to help you.
  2. Ask the person why they think you are depressed.

    It's unlikely a complete stranger is going to say you are depressed. So, I assume you have a relationship of some kind with the person and as part of a healthy relationship you will value and sometime ask for their opinion. Keep in mind that things can seem pretty different from another point of view and it may be that even if you aren't depressed then there must at least be some sort of communication problem. Asking and listening to what they think might help improve communication and strengthen your relationship.
  3. Be honest with yourself.

    This is a hard one! It's hard enough when your well but if you are depressed you might have trouble with this. Your thought and behaviours will be muddled by depression so if you have any doubt at all or if the other person really does seem concerned then please always use my fourth recommendation.
  4. Seek a professional opinion.

    The person best qualified to determine if you have depression is someone who has received training, has experience of mental health disorders and has the right diagnostic tools. Your first stop should be your GP and if you feel awkward seeing your normal doctor then why not see someone else?

As someone with a history of mental health problems I can look back and see that at certain times in my life I would have been the worst person to objectively assess the state of my own mental health. If you have concerns or others have concerns about how you are feeling then seeking help would be a positive way of proving that you are well or perhaps more importantly a positive step in getting better.

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