It’s normal to experience periods of sadness, especially after a challenging event such as losing a loved one, job loss, or a traumatic injury or diagnosis. Occasionally feeling down is to be expected, but when sad feelings don’t pass with time or start to impact many areas of your life, these could be signs of depression. It can be difficult to differentiate between sadness and depression, but recognizing the difference is essential to get the proper treatment. The following are a few warning signs to talk about with your doctor.
Pessimistic Feelings - Having a gloomy outlook on the future could be due to a bad day, or it could be a sign of hopelessness. This symptom could lead to a further progression of depression because a person’s general outlook on life could lead to negative behaviors. Things can then spiral downward very quickly. The expectation that something will go wrong can make someone feel even more depressed and pessimistic.
Irritability and Restlessness - When a person is extremely temperamental or overreacts to situations, that may be a sign that more is going on. Irritability and restlessness can manifest more in social situations, leading to conflict with others and social isolation.
Difficulty Concentrating - Often difficulty concentrating is associated with adolescents and young adults. However, it can be a sign of depression in anyone. Making decisions, remembering details, and being in the moment can be difficult when suffering from depression.
Fatigue - Lethargy is a significant indicator that depression is at play. A person may feel as though they can’t get out of bed in the morning; all they want to do is curl up under the blankets and avoid the world. Depression can have a substantial impact on energy levels and motivation. Fatigue can be harmful to other areas of life, such as work or school, compounding the pressure on the person who is depressed.
Poor Eating Habits - Depression can change normal eating habits. Often someone who is depressed will have very little appetite. Other times a person may turn to food for pleasure and comfort. Both scenarios can be dangerous because poor eating habits can affect hormone and neurotransmitter levels, which can lead to more feelings of depression and perpetuate the cycle.
Loss of Interest - The loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities is another sign of depression. Sports, hobbies, art, and sexual activity can become uninteresting for someone living with depression. Furthermore, as they push these activities away, social isolation can fuel their depression and add to feelings of helplessness and worthlessness. In many cases, depression can cost people important aspects of their life.
Feelings of Helplessness - The longer a person suffers from depression, the more they accumulate feelings of helplessness. Feeling helpless can interfere with getting help or being motivated to do anything at all. It could feel as if the whole world is sitting on their shoulders. Sometimes a person may feel guilty about their situation as if they are bringing others down. It is vital for a person living with depression to realize that help is available and that they are not alone.
Feelings of Emptiness - Empty feelings can range from the loss of joy from things that previously brought pleasure to reacting differently to events, such as the loss of a job or loved one. This may look like apathy or indifference to events that would typically elicit a response. It may seem as though the person doesn’t care or lacks any emotions. This can lead to unhealthy coping or not seeking therapy or treatment.
Insomnia or Excessive Sleeping - Depression often affects sleeping schedules, as well. It is common for someone with depression to stay awake later into the night and to sleep more during the day. This also adds to social isolation, as they are sleeping during normal waking hours. Excessive daytime sleeping is often due to insomnia at night.
Aches and Pains - Physical aches and pains can manifest as a symptom of depression. Not just muscular pain, but headaches and joint pain, as well as digestive problems and body weakness, can occur when suffering from depression.
Suicidal Thoughts - Feeling suicidal is cause for great concern. If you or someone you know is considering suicide or harming someone else, you should seek professional help. Any level of suicidal thoughts should be taken seriously.
Depression can range from not feeling like getting out of bed for work in the morning to self-harm or suicide. It is important to remember that, as with anything in life, challenges will pass. We often come out stronger, having learned the lessons of our struggles. Keep in mind, there is always help and support available, and you are never alone in your battle with depression.
When to See a Doctor
If you feel depressed, make an appointment to see your doctor or mental health professional as soon as you can. If you're reluctant to seek treatment, talk to a friend or loved one, any health care professional, a faith leader, or someone else you trust.
When to Get Emergency Help
If you think you may hurt yourself, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. If you have a loved one who is in danger of suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.