Self diagnosing Depression – the first step out of the woods

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By Owoeye Williams

Ever wondered how nuclear bombs have such devastating power they possess? Have you taken time to peruse what mechanism could possibly be installed in them to wreak such colossal havoc as recorded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? This is because nuclear reactions that happen on the inside of these weapons are one of those intriguing process that feeds on itself — a system that uses its products to further its course. Another process that also falls into this category is working out: you do 10 reps this week, the results make your body stronger so you can do 15 reps the following week and in the subsequent weeks, you do more and more except an external influence stops you. Depression also falls into this mind blowing category of mechanism as it’s symptoms are also fuels that stoke up its ravaging fire. A stealth killer that fashions new weapons out of the sites it has damaged and predictably becomes enigmatic.
The success of depression as a top health concern today however owes much to our ignorance and wrong perception. We went astray when we invented a parallel meaning for this same word, when we termed a temporary feeling of grief or sadness owing to normal ups and downs of our life “depression”. Seeing from this layman’s point of view has fed us over the years with illusionary understanding of what depression technically is. We’ve failed to see it as a mental disorder — an illness of the brain characterised by feeling of sadness among others like loss of interest in erstwhile pleasurable daily activities and changes in appetite that persisted for at least two weeks and above all, thoughts of death or suicide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the most common illness worldwide and the leading cause of disability. They estimate that 350 million people are affected by depression, globally. The question however hangs in the air, “How does one get infected with the illness of depression?”. Unlike common illnesses depression doesn’t have a causal microbial organism, one can suffer from depression owing to consistent exposure to violent experiences such as trauma and abuse, chemical abnormalities in the brain, personality and genetics — all intrinsically man-made.
The major hurdle in battling depression however lies in its diagnosis. Experts say if someone voluntarily admits they are currently suffering from depression, it is more likely they are really not and if someone really suffering from depression is diagnosed of it, they are more likely to disagree and show restraint — they could even seem to be the happiest person alive. The solution however lies in making those suffering from this illness see it for what it truly is through self diagnosis. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) below comes in handy at this junction. BDI is a compilation of 21 questions that helps to evaluate if one is suffering from depression.
As you go through the questionnaire, read each item carefully and write down in a paperbthe number next to the answer that best reflects how you have been feeling during the past few days, you will later add up all the number for each question to get your total score. Make sure you circle one answer for each of the twenty one questions honestly knowing that this could be the first step you would be taking at knowing your depression status. If more than one answer applies to how you have been feeling, circle the highest number. If in doubt, make your best guess. Do not leave any questions unanswered. You should also note that several questions ask if you have been recently experiencing a particular symptom, “… Any more than usual,” or “… More then before”. If the symptom has been present for a long time because of chronic depression you are to answer the question based on a comparison of how you are now with how you were feeling the last time you were happy and undepressed. If you believe you have never felt happy and undepressed, then answer the question based on a comparison of how you are feeling now and how you imagine a normal, undepressed person would feel.


0: I do not feel sad
1: I feel sad
2: I am sad all the time and I can’t snap out of it
3: I am so sad or unhappy that I can’t stand it


0: I am not particularly discouraged about the future
1: I feel discouraged about the future
2: I feel I have nothing to look forward to
3: I feel that the future is hopeless and that things cannot improve

0: I do not feel like a failure
1: I feel I have failed more than the average person
2: As I look back on my life, all I can see is a lot of failures
3: I feel I am a complete failure as a person


0: I get as much satisfaction out of things as I used to
1: I don’t enjoy things the way I used to
2: I don’t get real satisfaction out of anything anymore
3: I am dissatisfied or bored with everything


0: I don’t feel guilty particularly
1: I feel guilty a good part of the time
2: I feel quite guilty most of the time
3: I feel guilty all the time


0: I don’t feel I am being punished
1: I feel I may be punished
2: I expect to be punished
3: I feel am being punished


0: I don’t feel disappointed in myself
1: I am dissatisfied in myself
2: I am disgusted with myself
3: I hate myself


0: I don’t feel I am worse than anybody else
1: I am critical of my myself for my weaknesses and mistakes
2: I blame myself all the time for my faults
3: I blame myself for everything bad that happens


0: I don’t have any thoughts of killing myself
1: I have thought of killing myself, but I would not carry them out
2: I would like to kill myself
3: I would kill myself if I had the chance


0: I don’t cry anymore than usual
1: I cry more now than I used to
2: I cry all the time now
3: I used to be able to cry but now I can’t cry even though I want to


0: I am no more irritated by things than I ever am
1: I am slightly more irritated now than usual
2: I am quite annoyed or irritated a good deal of the time
3: I feel irritated all the time now


0: I have not lost interest in other people
1: I am less interested in other people than I used to be
2: I have lost most of my interest in other people
3: I have lost all of my interest in other people


0: I make decisions about as well as I ever could
1: I put off making decisions more than I used to
2: I have greater difficulty in making decision than before
3: I can’t make decision at all anymore


0: I don’t feel like I look worse than I used to
1: I am worried that I am looking old or unattractive
2: I feel that there are permanent changes in my appearance that made me look unattractive
3: I believe that I look ugly


0: I can work about as well as usual
1: It takes an extra effort to get started at doing something
2: I have to push myself very hard to do anything
3: I can’t do any work at all


0: I can sleep as well as usual
1: I don’t sleep as well as I used to
2: I wake up 1—2 hours earlier than usual and find it hard to get back to sleep
3: I wake up several hours earlier than I used to and cannot get back to sleep


0: I don’t get more tired than usual
1: I get tired more easily than I used to
2: I get tired from doing almost anything
3: I am too tired to do anything


0: My appetite is no more worse than usual
1: My appetite is not as good as it used to
2: My appetite is much worse now
3: I have no appetite at all anymore


0: I haven’t lost much weight, if any, lately
1: I have lost more than five pounds
2: I have lost more than ten pounds
3: I have lost more than fifteen pounds


0: I am no more worried about my health than usual
1: I am worried about physical problems such as aches and pains, or upset stomach, or constipation
2: I am very worried about physical problems and it’s hard to think of much else
3: I am so worried abut my physical problems that I cannot think about anything else


0: I have not noticed any recent change in my interest in sex
1: I am less interested in sex than I used to be
2: I am much less interested in sex now
3: I have lost interest in sex completely
(Copyright 1978, Aaron T. Beck, M.D,)


Total score Levels of depression
1—10 These ups and downs are considered normal
11—16 Mild mood disturbance
17—20 Borderline clinical depression
21—30 Moderate depression
31—40 Severe depression
Over 40 Extreme depression


Regardless of what your total score is, mental wellbeing is not a definite status one attains permanently, one needs to continously evaluate their mental fitness from time to time. However, a persistent score of 17 or above indicates you may need professional treatment.
Depression is ferociously eating deep into the mental fabric of our society and the only way to stop it is by increasing mental health awareness, seeking the help of professional psychologist and giving one another the best support we can get. We should also not forget to surround ourselves with people and things that give us genuine happiness, because these are the only things that will count during our dark days.

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