Linking Stresses and Symptoms (3)

It  comes as a surprise to many, that mental health conditions like Depression, the Anxiety disorders or Post-Traumatic Stress may manifest themselves predominantly as a physical illness.  As a result, people suffering from these conditions may have no idea what is causing their symptoms.  Many people with Depression, for example, don’t feel particularly depressed.  So what are the clues that point us toward these diagnoses?  I usually ask the following questions:

  1. Are you feeling down, depressed or hopeless?
  2. Is your general energy level down?
  3. Have you lost interest in things you used to love to do?
  4. Do you feel tense, anxious, worried or nervous, out of proportion to any reason for those feelings to be there?
  5. Do your physical symptoms seem to come on when you are around large numbers of other people or are in social situations where you feel you might embarrass yourself or that others might be judging you?
  6. Do you have episodes of overwhelming fear that reach their peak within ten minutes or so?
  7. Have you experienced a terrifying, horrifying or otherwise traumatic event in your life?
  8. Did this event occur shortly before your symptoms began?  If not, did anything occur just before your symptoms began that is in any way linked to the traumatic event?

Answering ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions doesn’t allow for a conclusive diagnosis but does mean you should get more information.  A good resource is the National Institute of Mental Health web site and you can take what you learn there to your doctor.  To get to the appropriate pages on that site, if you find yourself answering “yes” to any of questions 1-3 then click Depression for more information, if “yes” to any of questions 4-6 then click Anxiety Disorders for more information and finally if “yes” to either of questions 7-8 then click Post-Traumatic Stress for more information.

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