Recently, a friend complained that she was “so depressed.” Obviously concerned for her mental wellbeing, I chatted with her about what she was going through, and luckily, in a short half hour, she was feeling better and back to her normal self. Many people use the word “depression” to describe how they are feeling at a specific moment: sad, disappointed, worried, etc. Real depression, however, is much more than just these “in the moment” feelings. It can be all-consuming, taking over your day-to-day life. It can interrupt or impact your ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy life.
When looking for signs of depression, feeling sad, teary, down or even suicidal may seem like common symptoms. You may even suspect a loss or increase in appetite, or feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. However, many people who are depressed may never feel any of these. Real depression can manifest itself in very surprising ways. If you are concerned that you or a loved one is suffering from depression, look for these less obvious symptoms:
- Abnormal Sleep Patterns: Many depressed people complain that they can’t get out of bed…that they never get enough sleep…that they could sleep for 12 hours every night and still need more. On the other hand, some complain that they can’t sleep or aren’t sleeping well. If you find that you have trouble getting a solid seven to eight hours of sleep on a regular basis, this may be a sign of depression.
- Apathy or Ambivalence: Once I asked a friend if they were happy. His response: “I’m not UNhappy.” This kind of response may sound okay, but in reality, it demonstrates apathy or ambivalence. If you can’t say you are happy, and yet, you can’t say you are unhappy, you may be living in a state of “existing.” If one is depressed, they may unknowingly turn off all of their emotions in order to shut out emotions such as unhappiness.
- Loss of Interest or Energy for Things You Enjoy: Individuals suffering from depression often have little to no interest in or lack the energy for the things that they normally really enjoy.
- Loss of Focus or Concentration: Some people who are depressed find that they can’t concentrate on work or other tasks that used to be easy to them. They are distracted and lose their focus on even the most basic of tasks. Further, individuals suffering from depression can be extremely indecisive, finding it difficult to make even the most obvious of decisions.
- Disinterest in Seeing Friends or Loved Ones: When someone is depressed, they may fall off the radar, hide out or avoid being social. Being around other individuals who are happy may be a reminder of how unhappy they are. Or, they may not have the energy to “put on a happy face” for others.
- Lack of Interest in Your Physical Wellbeing or Appearance: If you normally take pride in the way you look or in your health and wellbeing, yet recently have stopped caring, it may be a sign that you are depressed. Individuals who are suffering from depression may have feelings of worthlessness, lack of confidence or self-esteem, and as a result, take on a “who cares” attitude about themselves.
It is important to understand the signs of depression. If you are truly depressed, it is important to seek help or guidance from a professional. Often, people will turn to medication to treat depression, but in reality, it is even more important to deal with what is causing the depression in the first place. Medication only treats the symptoms, but doesn’t actually fix the problem. Psychological treatment, however, helps individuals understand what is causing the depression so that they can address those triggers and hopefully lead a happier, medication-free life.
Have you or someone you know suffered from depression? Did you seek help? What were your symptoms of depression?