Is An Online Dysthymia Test Reliable?

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated July 8, 2022
Receiving A Diagnosis Is Easier Than Ever With Online Therapy
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It seems that just about everything can be found in an online quiz. From relationship-shattering, “Is he cheating?” to the more fun and entertaining, “What color of the rainbow are you?” the internet is rife with quizzes designed to tell you just a little bit more about yourself. Along with the Cosmo-style quizzes and silly personality quizzes come quizzes and tests claiming to tell you whether or not you suffer from mental illnesses, such as dysthymia. Are these tests reliable?

What is Dysthymia?

Dysthymia is the clinical name for persistent depressive disorder. Dysthymia is separated from a major depressive disorder, and other depressive disorders because it presents a little bit differently; most notably, it is a chronic depressive disorder, rather than an acute one. Dysthymia often presents with less severe symptoms than other depressive disorders, but these mild symptoms can last for years and years with only small periods of relief (typically not exceeding two months).

Although many people who are not in the mental health field do not thoroughly investigate the many different types of depression, dysthymia is in fact a depressive disorder or one of many disorders that are characterized by a similar set of symptoms. The difference in depressive disorders may revolve around symptom duration, symptoms subsets, and reactions to symptoms. The most pressing components of dysthymia are long duration, little to no relief from symptoms, and a low-level intensity of symptoms.

What Are the Symptoms of Dysthymia?

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The symptoms of Dysthymia are, for the most part, the same symptoms that present in depression. These include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Lethargy
  • Being Overwhelmed
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Avoidance
  • Guilt
  • Over (or Under) Eating
  • Sleep Disturbances

Not each and every one of these symptoms has to be present for an individual to be diagnosed with dysthymia, but a combination of them must be present for at least six months or longer to qualify as dysthymia, and in many cases, symptoms have lasted even longer.

Are Online Dysthymia Tests Reliable?

The answer to this question is a nuanced one, and the best answer is a firm (and potentially puzzling): yes and no. Although online dysthymia tests are not reliable sources for a diagnosis of any given condition, do not take all of the possible factors into account to deliver a robust and well-informed opinion, and are not a legitimate replacement for a professional evaluation, online dysthymia tests do have their place, provided that they are used correctly.

Online quizzes designed to test for symptoms of mental illness are not conclusive, but they do have a place in the quest for information about the symptoms you are experiencing, as they can provide some reassurance that you are not imagining changes to your mental health, and something may legitimately be amiss. Again, these quizzes are not created as a high-quality, professional source of information, but they very often use known depression and dysthymia symptoms in their lines of questioning to deliver a spectrum of answers that can have some truth to them.

When taking an online quiz asking questions about mental illness symptoms, be sure to check the questions and results against an actual healthcare professional, even if that professional is simply primary care or a family doctor. Although these doctors are not usually trained to diagnose mental health conditions, they are trained to be capable of screening for mental illnesses and can help set you on the right track for further evaluation or investigation. You can also go over results and concerns with a licensed professional counselor or another licensed therapist.

What Should These Tests Be Used For?

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Tests should function as a reference point or a starting point for further investigation of symptoms. Online quizzes are often easy to access, private to take, and do not require a lot of prior knowledge or in-depth understanding of the mental health field. This makes quizzes ideal for people who have just begun to notice or suspect symptoms of major depression or other depressive disorders, such as prolonged feelings of hopelessness, increased irritability, or loss of interest in previously loved activities or things. Quizzes can be used to narrow your focus to determine what your symptoms most closely mimic.

Quizzes can also be useful to help you gather your thoughts. If, for instance, you are reading a quiz asking questions about depression, and you find yourself thinking along the lines of, “Oh! I hadn’t thought about it, but I have been feeling that way a lot,” the quiz has been a useful resource. This is particularly true of lesser-known symptoms of depression, such as eating changes, anger, and difficulty focusing. When a quiz pulls all of the possible symptoms together and places them in a single space, people might be able to gather a clearer picture of their own struggles.

What Are the Next Steps?

If an online quiz indicates that you are at high risk for dysthymia or are displaying significant dysthymia symptoms, the next step to take is to reach out for help. Reaching out for help can look different for everyone. Searching for assistance can mean:

  • Turning to a trusted friend or mentor. Seeking help from your closest loved ones can be a simple but important step. Reaching out to let someone you love or trust know that you suspect you are having symptoms of dysthymia can help you understand the gravity of the situation, and they may be able to help guide you or offer moral support as you seek out professional mental health assistance.
  • Enlisting the help of a religious leader. Some religious leaders have training in advising services and may be able to help point parishioners or congregants in the direction of a professional who can help. Although sessions with a priest or other type of religious authority may help somewhat, these individuals are rarely trained to treat the full scope of mental illnesses and disorders and should not be relied upon as a sole form of therapy.
  • Engaging a licensed mental health professional. Reaching out to a mental health professional directly can be the most logical next step for some people. Therapists can be found through insurance companies, a quick Google search for therapists in the area, or even online, through sites such as BetterHelp, which offer professional therapy services remotely.
  • Checking in with support groups. Support groups can offer wonderful cachets of resources for someone just beginning to seek information and assistance with depressive symptoms. Although these groups should not be seen as an alternative to therapy or even an authoritative source of information, support groups can help provide some guidance as to what you can do next, what treatment might involve, and how soon you can expect to notice changes occur.

A Note About Seeking Help

If you have the symptoms of depression, and need help, reaching out for help is a wonderful step. Unfortunately, some trusted advisors-parents, friends, religious leaders, or other individuals in authority-may struggle to acknowledge the validity of mental health concerns and may not provide the support and guidance you need or are hoping for. If this is the case, keep searching. It is not weak or foolish to seek help for any mental health concerns, and there are often numerous avenues through which to obtain counseling or therapy. If the first person you go to is not able to be willing to help, move on to the next until you are able to get the help, guidance, or treatment you need.

The same can be said of major depression quizzes and other online mental health evaluations. Some are offered as a quick blurb, some are posted as part of a marketing campaign by a mental health team, and some are posted without any real link to the mental health field. When taking a quiz, do some quick homework to determine the source of the quiz. Is it requesting payment? Is it provided through a site that offers therapy? Does it require personal information, such as your name, address, or credit card number? All of these can be red flags that should not go ignored.

Online Dysthymia Tests

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Online dysthymia tests should not be mistaken for legitimate sources of diagnosis. Instead, these tests are designed to offer a gentle “maybe” regarding symptoms and their meaning. Online quizzes are not reliable indicators of a certain diagnosis or mental illness, but instead offer people who are seeking answers some insight into why they are behaving or feeling the way that they are, which can encourage them to seek professional help. There are many different ways to come to the realization that your mental health might be in need of assistance, and quick online quizzes are just one of those ways. After all, if the quiz comes back positive, and you visit a therapist, only to discover that you are not depressed, or do not require ongoing, intensive therapy, you can walk away with a clean bill of mental health, without any harm done. Online quizzes should not be the sole source of information regarding mental health and mental illness, but they can be a useful jumping-off point for individuals who suspect symptoms of dysthymia.

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