Monday, February 09, 2009

Are you insane? Try the fun quiz.

Nothing irritates me more than self-diagnostic newspaper quizzes. It's all fine and good running a harmless fun one like 'which flavour milk shake are you' or 'which breed of gecko are you' but when it comes to serious issues, when it masquerades as a diagnostic help tool, it can be actually harmful.

Here we have a page listing quizzes to determine whether you are:

Clinically depressed
Clinically stressed
A junkie.

I put 'clinically' in front of two of those because everyone gets depressed or stressed once in a while. It's normal and does not need treatment. When stress or depression get deep-rooted, then there could be a case for treatment. That's when it becomes a clinical issue.

We can ignore the last on the list. If you're taking hard drugs and don't know it, you're too far gone to help.

But just look at this:

Worried your mood swings are out of control? Answer our simple questionnaire,compiled by doctors from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, to find out if you are likely to be suffering from bipolar disorder.

No. Don't. If you are worried, see a psychiatrist. Don't mess about with newspaper quizzes. Would you do a 'Is that lump cancer' quiz and be happy that your score says it isn't? Hell, no, you wouldn't. You'd go along to the doctor. Worse, these quiz games will have doctor's surgeries full of people who have nothing at all wrong with them beyond feeling a bit down today.

And just look at some of the questions for the 'bipolar' quiz.

3. Are you having lots of new and exciting ideas that seem to come very quickly into your mind?

That's a problem? That's my job!

7. Do you talk very quickly and do people find it hard to follow your thoughts while they seem clear to you?

Only when talking to idiots. These questions would have you thinking you're in the manic phase. The depressive phase is just as bad.

2. Are you finding it hard to cope with things that used to be manageable?

That's called 'getting older' and applies to everyone.

4. Are you finding it harder to make decisions?


9. Have you been avoiding other people or friends?

Always have, always will.

10. Do you ever contemplate suicide as a way out of your problems?

Suicide, never. Murder, occasionally.

Answering these questions without a professional there to interpret those answers in context is pointless and will lead to a lot of people thinking they're sick when they're not. On the other hand, someone with this condition might not recognise there's a problem and will hold up that quiz to friends and family and say 'See? nothing wrong with me'. Get a real doctor involved if you're concerned.

The quiz for depression is the same as the second part of the bipolar one. You'd answer 'yes' to most of those questions if you had a cold.

The stress one is on two parts, mind and body. Any of the 'body' symptoms, if they are persistent, should be checked by a doctor anyway. The 'mind' part starts with this question:

1. Do you feel worried almost all of the time?

I live in the UK. Anyone who isn't worried almost all the time just hasn't been paying attention.

A rough day at work will get a positive result from this quiz. That's not necessarily clinical stress. That's someone who needs to go fishing for the day.

Obsessive-compulsive: I check the doors are locked more than once before going to sleep, I check things more than once before going out. That's not OCD. That's forgetfulness and thinking about other things while doing mundane chores. That's why I have to make sure I really did lock the doors. I don't turn lights off, then on and then off again to make sure they're really off. That is OCD.

The alcoholic one has some serious points (if you wake up needing booze, you have a problem) and some silly ones (can you go more than a few days without a drink). I like a whisky last thing at night. So I haven't been more than a couple of days without some form of alcohol for a long time, apart from when I was ill. Then there's the 'can you drink a lot without getting drunk' question. It depends on what drink, how much time, and what you'd consider 'a lot'. I rarely get drunk because it spoils the next day, but I can drink what some would consider 'a lot' over a period of several hours and end up tipsy but stable (not driving quality though).

This line is the killer:

If you answer yes to a few or more of these questions, it is indicator of alcohol misuse.

'A few or more'? There are questions in there almost everyone would answer 'yes' to.

Anyone could self-diagnose themselves to have all these problems or none, depending on what mood they were in and how prone to hypochondria they are. These quizzes aren't 'fun', they cause needless worry for many and can be used by a wily alcoholic, say, to convince others that there's no problem.

I wish they'd stop doing this. The place for diagnosis is in a doctor's surgery, not the pages of a newspaper.

Stick to 'what colour of sea anemone am I' and things like that. Very few are deranged enough to take those seriously.


Southern Writer said...

I'm definitely coming back to this one after my nap.

Southern Writer said...

I just took an anti-bitch pill with a good stiff drink ... what was the question?

Romulus Crowe said...

No pills for me, but I'll take the drink.

It doesn't cure anything but it does stop me worrying about it.

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