Appropriate response to mild concern

I’ve long been bothered by medicine’s Catch-22 that essentially forces us to make a preliminary self-diagnosis (the big choice to make an appointment with someone in the first place) before getting any amount of professional opinion. For example, I got a spot on my skin a while back, and I went to a dermatologist because it seemed like the responsible thing to do. He told me it was nothing, which had been my guess, and it still seems reasonable that I went (because if we could self-diagnose, then why would we need doctors?) but I still left feeling like a fool, wondering whether he was internally mocking me like a dumbass hypochondriac that House has to deal with on clinic duty.

I’m also hesitant to post on a forum with people who have serious diagnosed issues, because I don’t want to trivialize anyone else’s problems by comparing them to mine. I’m here because I just watched Greg’s talk. His is an “impressively” rough story - it shames any whining I might do because I’ve never experienced anywhere near the depression he describes - but much of what he says about type 2 bipolar seems uncomfortably familiar. Like he says, though, it’s all stuff that is considered sort of normal for developers, so I don’t know what to think.

  • Hyperfocus - Who doesn’t have this? New projects are exciting. 4:00 am coding fueled by Dr Pepper is awesome. Being able to focus on really abstract ideas for many hours at a time is a programmer’s superpower. It’s hard to imagine that being symptomatic of some problem.

  • Prolonged “down” periods - We call that “burnout”, right? Doesn’t everyone? It’s so much worse if Java is involved, but ultimately it happens to most projects. The work gets boring, the bugtracker starts to looks futile, and if you really care about your work, that shitty feeling seeps into the rest of your life.

  • Irregular sleep - I wake up and go to bed late. I come to work when others are leaving for lunch, and the office is lax enough that no one has complained. I repeatedly try and fail to fix this habit, but I’m not sure I want to. Being a “night person” is a legitimate thing, right? And at least I never get stuck in rush hour traffic.

  • Social isolation - I do spend a lot of time by myself. At work I’m chatty with a few people I know well, but I need everyone else to stay out of my office. When I’m not at work I’m usually at home, where I live alone. I have some really good friends, but I only see them when they invite me to do something, because I rarely work up the energy to contact anyone myself. I have some social anxiety, but it seems more like extreme introversion and the practical result of growing up as a kid who played with computers instead of going outside, not a disease.

  • Grandiosity - A little. I know I’m not the best dev in the world, but I am fairly damn good at what I’m doing. In a real sense, the rules don’t all apply to me: I know how hard it is to hire decent developers, so I know it would be very hard for me to get fired.

I don’t at all know what to think. I’ve been having a nagging feeling that something is wrong - probably not this in particular, but something. But maybe not. If I sought professional help, I’d feel like a fool.

The symptoms you describe, it is my understanding that such things are classified as a disorder or part of a disorder when their severity begins to impact one’s life in a significant and negative fashion. In Greg’s talk he for example mentions not showing up for work, or quitting jobs in such a fashion, those to me are good examples of when one might need help.

I would argue that any doctor that mocks you for seeing them for something that turns out to be nothing, is a bad doctor, or could at least do better in terms of understanding his patients or people in general, and not being so judgmental. Nevermind that he or she gets paid for your false alarm.

I would also be hesitant to describe less-severe issues as trivializing of subjectively more severe ones. Such a notion would be no less dismissive than not recognizing non-physical illness all together.

My thought is that if you are in doubt you should see a professional.