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aneedleinthehayy's avatar

How do I tell the fakers from the chemically unbalanced?

Asked by aneedleinthehayy (1186 points ) September 24th, 2008

Depression. Some people milk it for attention, to feel sorry for themselves so others will sympathize and pay attention to them. Others actually have something wrong in their brain that is causing them to feel helplessly sad. How do I know who is who? I can’t go around assuming everyone is a drama queen, but I can’t go around believing everyones sob story.

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35 Answers

sundayBastard's avatar

Ask them if they would like to commit suicide with you. if they say yes, then they are real if they say no then they are fake. easy

SpatzieLover's avatar

People that are honestly depressed are NOT drama kings/queens for the most part
(those people are selfish attention getters “no one loves me. everyone hates me. I’ll eat worms for breakfast”)

The honest to goodness depressed people are alone in their homes not wanting/knowing how to get out of their ruts. They could drink (might even have a stool saved for them at their local tavern) or do drugs to help hide their pain. Mostly you’ll know them by the fact that they don’t show up when you expect them to. Or they do show up but always have a million reasons they’ll be leaving soon/early.

Many people in my family are depressed or have tendancies, and my husband’s father is clinically depressed. Needless to say we’ve heard hundreds of excuses.

aneedleinthehayy's avatar

I wonder if there is a way to find out someones dopamine activity?

augustlan's avatar

I always give someone the benefit of the doubt. Having been there myself, my first instinct is always to help, or at least listen. However, if it goes on for long enough, and the person will not seek help, it’s time to cut your losses. Not trying to get better is a big sign that they are “happy” to be miserable. There are exceptions…some are so far gone that they are unable to get help by themselves. In those cases, a very firm push is needed.

tinyfaery's avatar

Depression isn’t the only psychiatric diagnosis that causes people to withdraw and/or act out. There is AD(H)D, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, GAD, etc. But you shouldn’t have to listen to anyone’s sob story. If they are asking you to feel sorry for them that is a sure sign you should do the opposite. Those who are aware of their diagnoses, and are actively seeking treatment through meds and therapy, will understand that they have choices, and that they are not prisoners of their disease. My rule is this; if they say to me, “I do this and that because of my disease”, I know they are seeking attention and unwilling to take responsibility for their lives.

Does that answer your question? It’s late.

deaddolly's avatar

I can tell by the person’s willingness or unwillingness to get/feel better. Some people are just never happy and never will be. Depression runs in my family too, but no one’s a druggie or drinker.
Ususally, you can tell after spending more time with them. And some ppl are just too damn needy. I stay away from that type. Very draining.

nikipedia's avatar

Yikes. I used to work on a depression research study. I interviewed about 500 participants with depression. I never talked to someone who was “faking it”. What makes you so sure any of these people are?

EmpressPixie's avatar

It’s notoriously difficult for psychologists and psychiatrists to figure out who is for real and who is faking it, we’ve done studies over the years where mentally healthy people enter asylums and with one strange saying then act perfectly normal after that and the people in charge still thought they were legitimately nuts at the end of the experiment. The first one was a classic, but it has been repeated since then.

If studied and trained professionals have difficulty, I’m not sure your chances are the best but I would say that you should simply use your best judgment. Personally, I think the answer is somewhere between the two: believe them until you have reason to doubt, but don’t let that rule you. Hold them to the same standards you hold anyone else. Don’t let them use their depression as an excuse.

tWrex's avatar

@SpatzieLover @tinyfaery @EmpressPixie all said it the best. My sister-in-law is “depressed”. Personally, I think she’s just an attention seeking bitch, but that’s because everything she does is for attention – like pink hair 2 days before senior pictures (wtf?). It really is going to be a judgement call though. When you’re tired of dealing with their shit call it quits. Tell them to seek professional help and when they’re ready to act like a human being or at least admit that they have an issue and are working towards a goal then you’ll be there to support them and their cause.

cwilbur's avatar

If they’re needy drama queens, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the result of a chemical imbalance or just a personality type – such people are exhausting to be around. Having a diagnosis that explains emotional vampirism doesn’t make it acceptable.

And I’ll second the people above: people who are really clinically depressed tend not to make big public displays of it.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m kind of interested in the “milking it” idea. I wonder what you mean. You say that in a pejorative way, but is all whining bad? Seems to me that whining can be stress relieving.

So, if people are in pain, or even if they are faking pain, you know what? My first impulse is to be sympathetic. If, as time goes on, and they have opportunities to do something about it, but they don’t, then my sympathy goes down. I don’t care if they have an excuse or not.

The thing is, depression can make you see yourself as utterly worthless, and undeserving of having friends or lovers or anything. When you’re inside it, at it’s worst, it seems like it will never end and, at least in my case, you actively work to drive people away. Not because you don’t want them. You desperately want love and attention. But you don’t deserve it. You are evil. Worthless. Scum. A gutter is too good for you. Being homeless is too good. Hell, even death is too good.

Sometimes you might scratch the hell out of yourself. Or cut yourself. My personal favorite was imagining, in excruciating detail, what it would feel like to slide a very sharp stilletto between my ribs to the point of my heart, and then inside it. I look at myself like a bug on a slide, sort of clinically, waiting to see how much it takes to make my heart stop.

You do anything to make the physical pain match the emotional pain, which is overwhelming, and completely unreasonable. And you can sit there, watching your train wreck of a life, and your efforts to make it even worse, knowing there is no reason to feel bad, and unable to make the pain go away. Cognitive dissonance, I guess.

I don’t know what it looks like from the outside, but it seems to me perfectly easy to suss out the depressed. I feel like we glom onto each other. There’s some magic scent in the air. Maybe it’s just the way we talk, or the way we look, or the disorganization of our spaces. There is no mistaking the reality of this. You will have no idea what to do, and it will surprise you, and confuse you, and seem absolutely backwards. I guess, I’d have to say, that if you have any kind of close relationship with a person, and you are a good observor, there’s no way you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Of course, I’m sitting here fuming. I’d love to trade you my emotions. You’ll see. It’s just peachy!

tWrex's avatar

@daloon I see exactly where you’re coming from and agree with you that that is exactly how those feelings manifest. However, there are also those that cut for the attention and not to attempt to make the physical match the emotional. Those that want attention cut in visible spots (wrists, forearms, and sometimes legs during the summer and then wear short skimpy shit), but those in the real pain cut elsewhere (shoulders, ribs (as you said), stomach and other non-visible places). I know someone that meets that attention criteria 1 million percent.

gailcalled's avatar

Some psychiatric disorders (Narcissism—->Grandiosity, Borderline Personality Disorder)
make people behave in very annoying, attention-seeking ways, but these people do not, in general, manifest signs of real Depression..

tinyfaery's avatar

Yes, but BPD is an Axis 1 diagnosis. Meaning it is considered a physical impairment treatable by medication.

gailcalled's avatar

@tiny:If client is willing to admit and then cooperate; many BPDs insist that they are just fine.

The narcissist who raised me would never have admitted to any flaws.

nikipedia's avatar

@tinyfaery: No. Borderline personality disorder is a personality disorder and consequently classified as Axis II.

gailcalled's avatar

Link to definitions of Axes, please.

Nimis's avatar

I think it’s easier for me to put up with Axis I disorders.
For Axis II disorders, it gets a little grey for me.
After all, where do you draw the line?
When it comes down to it, everyone’s personality is chemical.
It may be a reason. But it’s not an excuse.

tinyfaery's avatar

You know I looked it up and you are right, but I see plenty of assessments that include BPD with another Axis 1 diagnoses. For example: Bipolar Disorder with BPD symptoms. Interesting. I always say that BPD is a cognitive disorder, but psychs fight me on it.

Bri_L's avatar

As someone who has depression and is Bipolar ( although I have been happy with only one pole for 1.5 years running now, knock on wood ) I just want to put out there that it can be very very hard to tell.

No one where I worked ever knew I had problems or took meds or tried to kill myself.

I actually was friends with someone who I knew to be depressed, stayed in touch with him (he was a co worker / friend ) and just kept an eye on him. I said to him one day, “Hey bud, you ok, you seem down. Wanna grab grub and verbally abuse coworkers who aren’t around?” He looked me in the eye and said “nope. Im fine. i have plans tonight. And he hung himself outside the building. he left me a note saying I was a good friend, it wasn’t my fault and there was nothing I could have done”.

In the end, you can get all the advice in the world but you would still be guessing.

augustlan's avatar

Bri, that is so sad

Bri_L's avatar

It is a testament to how difficult it really is to know. We can only do what we think is right at the time.

I did ask the guy. Then I thought “I should have done more”. But he had looked worse a lot of times. It turns out it was that “at peace with his decision” phase.

wundayatta's avatar

I wonder if it would be possible to get a census of people with brain disorders here. How many bipolar; how many depressed, how many ADD, etc, etc. Sometimes I think the people here are drawn here becuase it’s the only safe way we have of reaching out to others.

While I’m new to this (I was diagnosed on Jan 31 on this year), I have found that one of the ways it has changed me is that I can tell. I can get inside other people’s heads better. Sometimes I try to explain, though, and it seems like people just can’t believe it. Such is life, I guess.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I think, given some time, it’s easy enough to separate the high maintenance people from the truly depressed. I’ve suffered my fair share of major depressive episodes, and it’s pretty damn bleak when you’re on the inside experiencing it.

I will say, though, just to play devil’s advocate (though I find myself agreeing with most people here) that I did know someone who was truly clinically depressed AND also very high maintenance. She was good friends with my ex for years, my ex thought she was a good person and wanted to help her out, be a stable, caring person in her life, etc. When it boiled down to it, my ex was the one spending all the energy in the relationship.

The friend pretty much never did anything to feel better. No meds, no exercise, no therapy. She was like a giant black hole sucking energy out of my ex. Having a conversation was like pulling teeth, monotone, monosyllabic answers. Eventually, my ex got fed up and they’re not really friends anymore, much to my relief. I mean, I saw the energy black hole, but I didn’t think it was my place to say anything.

I guess my point is that people can be both.

Nimis's avatar

Awww, Bri.

Nimis's avatar

I actually have an old friend who was diagnosed with borderline personality.
My psychiatrist’s recommendation was to stop being friends with her.
I stopped going to see him instead.

While my friend and I have a lot of issues, that was not the solution I was looking for.
Yes, I think she can be needlessly dramatic. And sometimes very emotionally-draining.
But I care about her. A lot.

I think your energy trying to figure out whether they are faking it or are chemically-imbalanced can be better spent trying to figure out how much you’re willing to put up with.

How much do you care about them?
How much can you emotionally put up with?
How much can you physically put up with?
And, in the long run, are you helping them or enabling them?

I think it’s really important to understand your limits and your boundaries.
Over the years, I’ve gotten to know mine a lot better.
At another time in my life, my psychiatrist’s recommendation might have been best.

girlofscience's avatar

This reminds me of Fight Club.

drhat77's avatar

CLassically, clinical depression comes with other symptoms than just “sadness”, like changes in sleep and eating patterns, and withdrawl from activities in life that used to be fun of the patient. can someone be chemically dpressed and not have any of the other signs? i guess so, medicine means never having to say you’re certain. but in my experience, someone who is really depressed does not specifically want your attention, because it will mean just one more thing that they have to deal with that they don’t have the energy for. But I also see a lot of depression relapse, and the patient says that they recognize the symptoms, and are coming back to be started on medication again or whatever.

Bri_L's avatar

What reminds you of fight club?

Bri_L's avatar

Oh. I have not seen the movie in a while.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

some people are depressed because of a chemical imbalance, but you can also be depressed just because of events that you feel are that significantly sad. but yeah dude, i totally get the whole fakers thing, it’s really ridiculous. some people are happier being sad. or pretending to be sad. maybe that’s a whole other problem? haha

Response moderated
Zerstorte's avatar

That’s true, tiffy. What’s the name for someone who prefers being miserable?
Depression?

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