One of the worst conditions to deal with is one that cannot be directly scanned, does not show up in blood work, and cannot be confidently diagnosed. In such cases, the physician often makes what is called a diagnosis of exclusion. Fibromyalgia falls into this category. It takes a long time to get a determination of fibromyalgia because the doctor has to test for many other things first. After excluding other likely causes of the symptoms, fibromyalgia is what’s left. There is no test that gets you there. The doctor can only verify the absence of other potential causes.
Thankfully, we are getting better at diagnosing issues that were once difficult or impossible to diagnose at the time. Early detection leads to early treatment. That prevents small problems from becoming big problems. We all have to do our part by consulting a physician when symptoms are in their early stages. No one wants to go to a doctor for things that don’t require it. So we also have to learn how to recognize when there might be a problem worthy of closer inspection. Here are three that people are generally pretty bad at detecting:
Substance Use Disorder
A person suffering from substance abuse disorder is usually the last person to know. They believe they are okay. They believe they are hiding it well. They believe they are perfectly functional. Some people get so good at hiding it that they really are perfectly functional while still being alcoholics. But eventually, someone else starts to notice. If you are very lucky, they will try to talk to you about it. This is where the denial comes in.
One of the most reliable diagnostic tools for determining if you have a problem with drugs and alcohol is when other people start expressing concern. At that point, it is already bad enough for someone else to notice. By recognizing the signs early, you might avoid hospitalization. At minimum, you will need detox and rehab. Early detection will make the detox easier and the rehab shorter. There is nothing but upside to being seen by an expert. If you or the people around you have any doubts, seeing an addiction specialist is confidential, and likely covered by your health insurance. If you have any doubt, let a professional check it out.
Is that little, red, angry looking, itchy bump something about which you should be concerned? What if it’s on your baby? Frankly, the answer is, probably not. We are bad at identifying rashes and often overestimate the problem. When it comes to identifying infant rashes, there is an emotional component that complicates the matter. As an adult, you are probably right to ignore a random rash and treat it with something topical and over the counter. But there are more bad things that rashes can represent in babies. You don’t want to take a chance that they are suffering from a yeast infection. All infections should be treated as early as possible.
The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert on diagnosing rashes to make sure your baby is okay. Your pediatrician is on call. You will be able to share your concern with an expert any time of the day or night. Call them before heading off to the ER. Your baby is most likely just fine. But there is no need to take any chances.
Depression and Anxiety
Are you sleeping poorly? Do you jump at every unexpected sound? Are you irritable? Do you feel like everything is hopeless? These could be signs of depression, anxiety, or both. No one self-diagnoses as having a mental illness due to the stigma associated with it. Unfortunately, self-medicating usually does not work. Instead, it tends to make matters worse. Like with substance use disorder, the first sign you have a problem often comes from people who care about you repeatedly asking you if something is wrong or if you feel okay. When you are suffering from clinical depression, you are not yourself. Let the concerns of your trusted inner circle be your mirror. Call your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
We are very good at diagnosing cancer. But that is not the only disease that can destroy your life. So when you or your friends start seeing signs of substance abuse disorder, unexplained rashes, or clinical depression and anxiety, call your doctor for guidance. Give yourself a chance for early treatment that can only come from early detection.