My mental health is failing
February 1, 2012 8:18 PM   Subscribe

Mental Health: I don't feel very good, mentally. And after taking some online mental health "tests" I wonder if I should do anything about it. Am I really as bad as the tests say that I am?

I've suffered with depression much of my life. That much isn't news to me. I haven't dealt with it more than just muddling through - no medication or therapy. Actually, I did see a psychologist briefly in high school. She ate popcorn as I told her my tales of woe. Really no more counseling contact other than that.

So, I was hit with a period of depression this past month or so that had me practically holed-up in my house, not doing anything during the day (I'm a stay-at-home mom), extreme fatigue, not being able to cook meals or do anything for my family, basically. This isn't new for me. But it is getting old.

I mention being holed-up in my house because it lead me to thinking of agoraphobia and I did a little online research. I was alarmed that it truly applied to me. I always joked about being agoraphobic because I hate leaving the house and am super good at avoiding going out. I took a "test." The test results stated that I most likely had agoraphobia as well as a severe social anxiety disorder.

I then took this test for social anxiety disorder. I score a 98! As in "Score 90 or higher SAD extremely probable. Scores in this range often are accompanied by great distress and difficulty in social functioning, and are also commonly seen in persons entering treatment for the generalized type of SAD."

Do I believe these tests? I know I have some serious anxieties, especially socially related, as well as depression. And I guess these tests just really shocked me at how severe they might be.

What's my next step? Is there a next step? Or is muddling through a decent option?

Other relevant info: 36, female, I could stand to lose 10 pounds
posted by Sassyfras to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Don't worry about the tests. Look at what you wrote:

So, I was hit with a period of depression this past month or so that had me practically holed-up in my house, not doing anything during the day (I'm a stay-at-home mom), extreme fatigue, not being able to cook meals or do anything for my family, basically. This isn't new for me. But it is getting old.
This isn't what mental health looks like.
It seems that muddling through isn't an option anymore. That's okay, you just have to see a doctor.

Next step: Go here: psychology today finder and put in your zip code. Tomorrow morning pick 5 and make 5 appointments for as soon as possible.
posted by bleep at 8:27 PM on February 1, 2012 [12 favorites]

I agree with Bleep (though not sure what she means by "pick five." One will do to start with.)

Don't take online tests- it's just another thing to stress over. But you do sound depressed, and therapy helps! Good luck!
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:45 PM on February 1, 2012

Next step: Go here: psychology today finder and put in your zip code.

Or ask a trusted friend for a recommendation.
posted by roger ackroyd at 8:46 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't feel very good, mentally.

Is all you need to be paying attention to here. Find a supportive therapist. It may take some time, some are better than others. Find one that clicks. Think of them as you would a personal trainer or a doctor - someone to help you start feeling better.
posted by mleigh at 8:46 PM on February 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you don't have a GP, your children's pediatrician may also be able to provide a referral for you; they do a lot of referrals for post-partum depression (and other parental mental health issues) and so will have names of psychiatrists for adults to hand. (Your comfort level may also be higher with the pede, since I see my kids' pede way more often than I see my doctor.) Part of keeping your kids healthy is keeping mom healthy; your pediatrician is on your side.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:48 PM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

In my experience with my own and friends' mental health, we always always always underestimate the severity of our own problems. By the time you start to realise yourself that you might have a problem and start looking at online diagnosis tests and thinking about seeing someone, that usually means it's really serious, and probably about six months or a year past the point where you should have gone to the doctor.

So go to the doctor already :)
posted by lollusc at 9:03 PM on February 1, 2012 [10 favorites]

Another option for free counselling could be if your parner has an Employee Assistance Program available through work - often, counselling is available for family members as well as the employees themselves.
posted by purlgurly at 9:07 PM on February 1, 2012

Yeah dude, you don't need to pass or fail a internet mental health test to feel it's okay to ask for a little help. Sounds like you could do with a little help. I would probably ask around for a recomendation; counsellors are a bit like hairdressers and pulling a random one of the paper introduces a lot of chance into something you probably want a little more certainty with.
posted by smoke at 9:07 PM on February 1, 2012

When I was depressed I took a bunch of those tests too, but I learned more from the fact that I wanted to take all the tests ( I was obsessed with taking them, on every site, and poring over the site) than what the tests actually said. Shocker, they all said I had severe anxiety and depression, which was true.

Please don't take your bad experience with the psychologist in high school to mean that therapy won't work for you. I think both the therapy finder and a friend suggestion are good ideas. FWIW I tried the friend's suggestion first and it was terrible for me, and then I met 8 therapists from the therapy finder and am happy with the person I chose out of those 8. Probably the best decision I ever made, for me and all the people who ever have to deal with me.

It's not easy to choose a therapist and make a plan to get better, but living with poor mental health isn't easy either is it?
posted by sweetkid at 9:10 PM on February 1, 2012

Therapy isn't just for people with crazy-bad stories; it's for an average person who has thoughts and feelings that seem counter-productive. It sounds like you would rather be doing something instead of holed up in the house. Especially since you realize that this cycle is getting old. That is a sufficient reason to try therapy for a bit.

I didn't have a great reason to go into therapy - no major traumas, etc. But one day I realized that I was really down on myself, so much so that I was hindering my own life. Therapy sounded like this really extreme, out-there solution, and I was hesitant to go, but I knew I didn't want to be this way forever. Fortunately, I had a friend who had recently gone to therapy and was very open about it. That made therapy tenable to me. I went. It took a few months of going once a week, but I started making progress, and after 18 months I had learned to manage those negatives thoughts and feelings well enough on my own.

You can be a totally-normal person and go to therapy. Normal people have problems - problems are a fact of life. If you are tired of the cycle of feeling so down that you can hardly function, then you really should give it a shot. I recommend Cognitive Behavioral therapy - it seems to be the most effective and has evidence backing it up.

Some therapists aren't great. I was lucky, and my first was very good. My second wasn't so great. But that doesn't mean therapy in general is flawed, just that one of my experiences with therapy wasn't great. It sounds like your first experience wasn't great, and I'm sorry for that. But you should try it again, and meet with a few therapists. The one you feel comfortable with is the one you should stick with.

Also, this: we always always always underestimate the severity of our own problems
posted by Tehhund at 9:25 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is not like deciding whether to go to the ER for stitches. There's no lower limit for therapy, people go for all kinds of reasons and there are methodologies for all of them. If a high-performance athlete can go to therapy to shave seconds off their time or improve their focus in a live sports setting, you can and should certainly go because you don't feel good.

Not going because you drew a crappy therapist in high school is like not going to restaurants because you once went to McDonald's and it was not tasty. And remember: if you have shades of social anxiety and agoraphobia, those diseases will fight tooth and nail to keep you from going; that's their survival mechanism. Question every excuse, because it might have a false premise.

Also, my customary advice: go to your (or any!) GP or urgent care or Planned Parenthood or school clinic and get a physical with bloodwork. What if you feel shitty just because your thyroid is out of whack or you need some extra Vitamin D? It might be that easy to solve this problem, but even if it's not you'll have ruled those things out so you can take the next step - which will be easier because you're already in motion - and find someone to talk to.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:30 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

is muddling through a decent option?

Sure, muddligh through is always an option. Until it doesn't work anymore and you find yourself holed up in your house, unable to leave for a month. If you'd like to get better, follow the advice above and find a good mental health expert. My personal advice, if you suspect mental illness, is to find a psychologist (the kind with a PhD) rather than a generic therapist.
posted by looli at 10:58 PM on February 1, 2012

* muddling. Grr.
posted by looli at 10:58 PM on February 1, 2012

The impact of the stigmatization of mental health treatment is so clear in stories like yours. You saw a shitty, unprofessional therapist, which sucks. It's outrageous that she thought it was OK to eat a snack during your session.

But if you saw a shitty, unprofessional dentist, would you never go to the dentist again? If you had a shitty, unprofessional auto mechanic, would you decide to just "muddle through" and never get your car fixed from then on?

Not blaming you for this--I think it's a logical outcome of the English-speaking world's culture. But there are lots of unshitty, highly professional therapists out there, and they may be able to help you.

Good luck.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:10 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

lollusc is absolutely right. I was severely depressed for over a year before going to the doctor, coming up with possible external reasons for my miserable state, until some brief suicide thoughts woke me up.

And after a while you realize it’s not you, it’s just an illness of your brain.

Also, psychiatrists rock. You will most probably feel much better just a few weeks after you start therapy/treatment. Best wishes.
posted by fonso at 4:13 AM on February 2, 2012

This is a really classic example of what goes wrong when people self-diagnose - basically they overdetermine their own symptoms. To me, it doesn't sound like you have depression and agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder. It sounds like you most likely have depression, which makes people stay indoors and avoid people. If you get the depression treated the other things ought to go away; although the DSM stuff encourages people to think of depression and anxiety as different things, and of certain kinds of anxiety as being distinct, the truth is that the majority of depressed people experience a level of anxiety as a component of their condition. Bear in mind that the basic treatments for anxiety are antidepressants and talk therapy, which coincidentally are the same as the basic treatments for depression.

Now, maybe after you've done that for a while you and your doctor will decide that you need, say, some anti-anxiety meds to help you through certain things. But that's the kind of thing you're only going to find out if you start tackling your depression in the first place. It sounds like it is hitting you hard, and it's OK to ask for help with that from a medical professional. Bear in mind that your self-supporting, 'muddling' attitude may well be helpful to you as you go about this; depression treatments are rarely magic bullets, and the best way of thinking of them may be as a useful addition to your existing range of ways to deal with your problems. You aren't compelled to take 'the sick role' and cede all responsibility for managing your difficulties onto somebody else. But if you say to yourself 'I am only going to deal with my problems in this way, I will not try that other way', then you risk making things more difficult for no reason. One of the most difficult things for me to realise when I embarked on this was that I'd hobbled along for over a decade under the assumption that this was somehow or in some way The Right Thing To Do, whereas really it would have been much simpler for everybody if I'd just asked for help sooner.
posted by Acheman at 4:18 AM on February 2, 2012

Don't get hung up on the potential diagnosis. Instead, think about what you're not feeling mentally good about, and what you'd like to improve. Mental illnesses are fuzzily defined and often overlap, and good therapy evolves to help the client in the specific ways he needs. It's a journey.

Sometimes we have to muddle through our mental shit, because we have no other choice - we're broke, or living in Siberia, or something. But if you don't absolutely have to muddle through, don't.

And nthing that we underestimate the severity of our problems, in regards to mental health. Or, many times, they just prevent us from seeing them clearly and objectively. If and when you get treatment and it starts clicking, you will be amazed at how much it's helping and how long you muddled through without it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:37 AM on February 2, 2012

You're a fulltime mother. How many children do you have? How supportive is your partner? Do you have friends and family nearby? These are questions a therapist will, we hope, ask.

Is it cold winter where you are? Wherever you are you are probably not getting enough sunlight if you rarely leave the house. Start getting some, and some daily exercise. Take the kids for a walk. Take a walk by yourself before your partner leaves for work or after your partner comes home from work. Get some exercise or yoga dvds and do them every day, do them with your kids. When you cook meals that could be frozen double the recipe and freeze half for those days when you do not want to cook.

Stop taking those tests! Try to get out of the house more. If your kids are all in school use some of that time to take a class, do some volunteering.

I hope you start to feel better soon.
posted by mareli at 6:31 AM on February 2, 2012

Chiming in with similar advice to most folks in the thread - you've got nothing to lose by asking your physician or your kids' pediatrician for help/a referral, or by calling a few therapists and seeing how that goes. In my experience, it's a bit less exhausting to go through your regular physician (if he/she is a good one) as they'll often be willing to do some of the work for you regarding phone calls, etc.

I understand the "am I sick enough to merit therapy" line of thinking, as I used it for years to keep myself out of therapy. I rationalized endlessly, kept telling myself I was "functional enough" even when I was missing 2 out of 3 meals a day to lie in bed. Looking back, I wasted most of college being miserably depressed when I could have probably dealt with it sooner.

Hang in there - I hope you feel better soon.
posted by brackish.line at 7:05 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

you sound like you are looking for someone else to make the decision on whether or not you need mental healthcare. Go, take the advice of the people here, and make an appointment. Sure, you probably could meddle through this and survive and function on some basic level. But why do that when you can deal with this and feel better?
posted by inertia at 8:44 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Everyone here is correct in that online tests aren't a true measure of a mental/psychological disorder, i.e, depression. Get a good therapist and go from there.

In the meantime, how about trying "baby steps" to see if you could conquer your agoraphobia? Since you haven't had a true diagnosis yet, how about trying something small to get out of the house? Do you have any hobbies? How about some exercise? It sounds like you're almost a prisoner in your own home (not to say that being a stay-at-home mom isn't a full-time job; I give those women mad props.) Don't do anything big, just start small. Maybe a walk tomorrow, coffee in a coffee house in a few days, going out with some friends in a few weeks....all small steps leading up to something big, like a vacation or a weekend trip!

I know from previous experience that feeling trapped and overwhelmed leads down a quick road to depression. Therapy, medication, developing coping mechanisms, setting small (and future large) goals all helped me get out of my rut. Don't get me wrong; I still have bad days here and there. But now I have resources to help me out.

A suggestion..when you're ready, pick up a camera and get out. It's really therapeutic (to me..possibly you too)!!

From one who has been there...GOOD LUCK!!!!
posted by BeastMan78 at 8:18 PM on February 4, 2012

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