Is An Online Dysthymia Test Reliable?
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. Tests meant to help you evaluate your mental health concerns are also widely available, but whether they’re reputable or not can vary significantly. Regardless, online tests like these are not meant to replace a professional diagnosis. Understanding how to spot a reliable online test and being aware of its limitations can help you use these tools in a way that’s beneficial rather than potentially harmful.
What Is Dysthymia?
Dysthymia is the clinical name for persistent depressive disorder. Dysthymia is separated from a major depressive disorder because it presents itself a little bit differently. Its symptoms may be milder than those of major depressive disorder, but it is still a chronic disorder; in other words, it can linger for a long time and create continuous obstacles in a person’s life.
Although many people who are not in the mental health field are not aware of the varying types of depressive disorders, dysthymia can affect just about anyone. In fact, a lack of awareness about dysthymia may contribute to underdiagnosing or mistreating its symptoms. The most pressing components of dysthymia are typically its long duration, little to no relief from symptoms, and a low-level intensity of symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms Of Dysthymia?
The symptoms of dysthymia are, for the most part, the same symptoms that present in depression. These include:
- Intense feelings of sadness or disinterest in most activities, even things that used to make you happy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Social avoidance or isolation
- Feelings of guilt
- Changes in appetite: eating more or less than usual
- Changes in weight as a result of appetite differences
- Sleep disturbances: sleeping more or less than usual
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 officially qualify as dysthymia, and in many cases, symptoms have lasted even longer.
Are Online Dysthymia Tests Reliable?
Although online dysthymia tests are not reliable sources for an official diagnosis of any given condition, they can still have a place in pursuing appropriate care when used correctly. Still, many do not take all of the possible factors into account to deliver a robust and well-informed opinion, and as such are not a legitimate replacement for a professional evaluation.
Instead, online tests can be useful tools for learning more information about the symptoms you are experiencing. They can also provide some validation for your symptoms by helping you understand whether 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 with a licensed mental health or healthcare professional. Even if you speak with doctors who are not usually trained to diagnose mental health conditions, you can likely be put on the right track for further evaluation or investigation in doing so.
What Should These Tests Be Used For?
Online dysthymia tests should generally function as a reference point or a starting point for further investigation of symptoms. This can make quizzes ideal for people who have just begun to notice symptoms of major depression or other depressive disorders. 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 likely been a useful resource. This may be particularly true of lesser-known symptoms of depression and dysthymia, such as eating changes, irritability, 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 experiences.
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 likely reaching out for help. How you do this 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 trust know that you suspect you are having symptoms of dysthymia can help you find moral support as you seek out professional mental health assistance.
- Engaging a licensed mental health professional. Reaching out to a mental health professional directly can be the most logical next step for some people.
- Checking in with support groups. Support groups can offer wonderful resources for someone just beginning to seek information and assistance for depressive symptoms. Although these groups should not necessarily 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.
Other Online Resources For Dysthymia Support
Online dysthymia tests should not be mistaken for legitimate sources of diagnosis. Instead, these tests are typically designed to offer a gentle “maybe” regarding symptoms and their meaning. If you’d like to unpack the results of an online test or seek further assistance in determining what may causing your symptoms, it may be best to turn to the expertise of a licensed therapist.
Resources like online therapy can be just as accessible as an online test, but online therapy can provide you with more definitive answers and support that makes sense for you. Because you can attend sessions from the comfort of your own home, online therapy can help you save the time and money you might typically spend commuting to and from in-person appointments.
You may be especially drawn to online therapy options if you’re looking for a treatment that works without causing undue stress. One recent review of several studies analyzing the benefits of online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) found it could be just as, if not more effective than face-to-face therapy for treating depression. It also discovered that online CBT was generally more cost-effective than traditional options. With approachable options like online therapy, it can be just as easy to get professional help as it is to turn to online test and quizzes.
Online quizzes should generally 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 have symptoms of dysthymia. Speaking with a professional, particularly a therapist, can likely help you determine which steps you might need to take to receive a diagnosis and get the support you may need.
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