Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jerri's Depression Test

Leif took this interesting photo of himself in a convex security mirror somewhere in the downtown Chicago "Loop" area when he and I were walking around there looking at architecture one day. I think it shows an interesting eye for composition and even makes a kind of statement. He is in the center with his camera on a monopod. It was in the late fall of 1989, I think, and he was almost 15 years old.

Jerri's Depression Test

I began keeping notes of possible signs of depression a year ago. A year before that, I had emailed Leif links to some online depression screening tests, and he insisted he wasn't depressed . . . until a couple of months later, when he admitted he was. he took the tests and insisted he scored great, no depression, and as I've said before, he was a psychology student and he knew how to "fool the test." Either he was fooling the test, fooling himself, trying to fool me, or all three. sometimes we hide things even from ourselves.

i wasn't satisfied with the screening tests, either. To me (another psychology student), they seem to be too narrow and some seem to leave out ways that men experience depression. On top of that, popular notions about depression seem to emphasize that a depressed person SEEMS depressed to those around him or her, which often is not true. They often cover it up very well. Leif certainly did. And the idea that a depressed person always seems sad, cries a lot, or can't function, isn't true, either, although there ARE depressed people who express it this way, who truly can't function.

My father was an organic chemistry professor who worked with doctoral graduate students and had many patents in his name. he was teaching classes at Kansas State University and working every day, known on campus as happy-go-lucky "Doc Kundiger," and yet he came home the night of February 9, 1960 with cyanide, told my mother he was going to sleep late the next morning, got up at about 2 a.m. and took the cyanide, apparently thinking he would have time to get back into bed and he'd be found later, as though he had died in bed. The cyanide worked too fast. He never made it to the bed. Only my mother knew he was depressed. He put on a good front for everyone else and only confided in her. Some people don't confide in anyone.

There are numerous stories in the news now about soldiers and veterans committing suicide, and how the military and the Veterans Administration are trying to find ways to help before they die, but it is very difficult and complex. Those with PTSD, depression or bipolar disorder (all at high risk for suicide) don't always confide their problems in anyone, many for the same reasons Leif didn't: pride, a desire to appear strong, and for many, probably a lack of understanding about what they are going through.

Depression is an insidious disease. It doesn't manifest itself the same way in everyone. I am not a licensed psychologist and this is not any kind of official screening test. However, if you take it, or answer it on behalf of someone you are worried about, and you find yourself answering "yes" to even five of these forty-five questions, then I beseech you to seek some professional help. Do not fear the stigma of mental illness. Depression is a physical disease due to chemical imbalances in the brain. There are treatments available, though they are not quick cures that remove all your problems.

As one who has survived the suicide of both my father and my son, and who found both of them when they died, believe me when I tell you that if you are thinking of suicide, you are not thinking clearly and need help, (with the possible exception of a terminal illness or unbearable pain). Your death will devastate your family and friends. Do not leave them that way.

Not all of the things on this test are always signs of depression. There may be other factors involved, other reasons for them. However, each of these is a possible and powerful sign of potential depression, and the more of them you answer yes to, the more you are likely to be depressed.

There may be external causes for your depression, financial problems, relationship problems, job problems, unemployment, health problems, stress, but that doesn't mean that depression is "okay" or doesn't need treatment. You may need to treat the causes AND the depression, before the depression destroys your relationships or kills you.

1. Do you find yourself making excuses not to get together with your friends?

2. Do you drink alone to make yourself feel better?

3. Do you often drink to put yourself to sleep?

4. Do you avoid people and social situations that you used to enjoy?

5. Do you find yourself getting angry or frustrated more easily?

6. Do you go shopping and spend money you shouldn't or can't afford to spend to make yourself feel better?

7. Are you gaining or losing weight without trying?

8. Are you taking less care of yourself physically, your health and appearance?

9. Are you engaging in more risky behaviors in order to make yourself feel something?

10. Do you feel less pleasure in activities you used to enjoy?

11. Do you have trouble becoming sexually aroused?

12. Are you tempted to try, or have you tried, illegal substances to try to make yourself happier?

13. Do you have trouble sleeping?

14. Do you have trouble concentrating?

15. Do you have road rage?

16. Do you drive recklessly?

17. Do you have reckless, unprotected sex?

18. Do you compulsively overwork to avoid dealing with other issues?

19. Do you try to isolate yourself from others?

20. Do you feel like lashing out violently against someone or something?

21. Are you exhausted much of the time?

22. Do you misuse prescription medications?

23. Do you have thoughts of killing yourself?

24. Do you have frequent headaches, stomach problems or other chronic pain?

25. Are you stressed out about your job?

26. Are you thinking about buying a gun, or have you recently bought one?

27. Do you feel inadequate?

28. Do you feel like a failure or believe you are worthless?

29. Do you think people, your family, your friends, would be better off without you?

30. Do you see no way out of your problems?

31. Do you feel that whatever you do, things are always going to go wrong for you?

32. Are you being honest with your answers to these questions, or trying to fudge the results?

33. Do you feel empty, unable to feel normal emotions?

34. Do you procrastinate and not get important things done?

35. Do you think about trying, or have you tried, illegal drugs in an effort to feel better, or to feel at all?

36. Does death seem like an escape from your problems or pain?

37. Are you moody and have emotions that are exaggerated, overreactions?

38. Are you lonely?

39. Do you often feel sad?

40. Do you often find yourself listening to angry or sad music?

41. Does music make you feel sad or cry?

42. Do you feel separated from those around you, unconnected emotionally?

43. Is it hard to motivate yourself to do anything?

44. Have you forgotten how to laugh and never feel like smiling?

45. Do you have recurring thoughts of death?

If you need more information on depression or suicide for yourself or someone else, there are helpful links on the main page of this blog.

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