Brilliant New Google Test Can Help You Figure Out If You're Depressed

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new google feature helps determine depression
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By Markham Heid

Roughly 16 million Americans, or nearly 7% of the population, suffered at least one major depressive episode during the past year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. And research has found that women between 40 and 59 have the highest rates of depression. But despite the fact that so many of us are affected by the mood disorder, not everyone is exactly sure what it means to be depressed.

"Depression often manifests as hopelessness,” says Michelle Newman, PhD, a professor of psychology and director of the Laboratory for Anxiety and Mood Pathology at Pennsylvania State University. “It’s a loss of interest or enthusiasm for things you used to enjoy.”

Clinical depression has other common symptoms, too, including a drop in energy, sleeping issues, weight loss, suicidal thoughts, and problems thinking or focusing, Newman says. Pain, a bad temper, and excessive drinking are also some of the surprising symptoms associated with the mood disorder. To be diagnosed with depression, however, these symptoms must persist for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks.

But even if you can relate to this list of symptoms, it doesn't necessarily mean you're clinically depressed. Which is where Google's new feature comes in.

Right now, if you search the term “depression” on Google, you’ll see a “knowledge panel” that provides information about the mood disorder. Within that knowledge panel, you’ll find a link titled, “Check if you’re clinically depressed.” Click on that link, and Google will direct you to a simple questionnaire based on something called the PHQ-9, a survey tool many health professionals use to diagnose depression.
It's important to note that Google's new tool, which was developed with the help of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is not meant to act as a replacement for a professional diagnosis, representatives from Google and NAMI say. However, it is meant to provide you with useful and insightful information to spur deeper research, seek help, and help you have a more in-depth conversation with your doctor.

If, after answering the PHQ-9 questions, your results suggest that you may be clinically depressed, your first step should be to contact a mental health clinic or professional. Visit GoodTherapy.com or the Anxiety and Depression Association of America to find a qualified specialist in your area. This is something you should put at the top of your to-do list.

The average person with depression symptoms waits six to eight years before seeking professional treatment. But the longer you wait to seek treatment the more pronounced and debilitating your symptoms may become. Newman says depression can also feed into anxiety-related disorders. So by delaying treatment, you could open yourself up to additional mental health concerns.

Even if it turns out that your symptoms are just a bout of the blues—and not major depression—there are effective steps you can take to chase away the clouds. For those feeling down, diet changes may help improve your outlook. Exercise, a little sunshine, and spending time with friends are more science-backed ways to relieve mild depression.

This article was originally published at Prevention. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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