learn about depression
signs of depression
Sometimes it’s hard to know if the feelings of sadness that we all feel from time to time are just a normal part of life that comes and goes or if it’s something more serious that we maybe need to get professional help in overcoming. And so I wanted to discuss the nine different symptoms that we look for as mental health professionals to help tease apart what is everyday sadness and the blues from more serious forms of depression.
The most important symptom for depression seems kind of obvious. It is feeling depressed or having a depressed mood. But that actually looks quite different in different people. And so it’s important to know that sometimes people will feel sad. They might feel irritable or angry. And sometimes that depressed mood will come across as a feeling of nothingness or a feeling of “blah.” I’ve heard people say that a feeling of blah is one of the hardest ones to withstand when it goes on for a while. So we want to look for depressed mood.
The second symptom is a big word that you may or may not have heard of before. It’s called anhedonia. Anhedonia means a loss of interest in things that you used to like. If you have activities that you like to participate in normally, hobbies, things that you’re interested in or that you find pleasurable and you no longer want to do those things or you don’t find them pleasurable anymore - you go through the motions but you just don’t enjoy it the way you used to - that’s another important symptom of depression, to let you know that maybe something more significant than just the regular blues is happening.
Now the third symptom on my list here are changes in appetite and weight. Sometimes people will think that if you’re depressed that you will have a loss of appetite or you might lose weight. And other people think that you will have an increased appetite and you might gain weight. But it could be either one. We do look at a significant change, not just a minor change, but something that’s noticeable and out of the ordinary for that particular person’s normal weight fluctuation. An increase or a decrease in weight change.
Another symptom that we look for are disturbances in the sleep pattern. Now just like changes in weight can go up or down or changes in appetite can go up or down, changes in sleep can increase or decrease as well. So we look for insomnia when people have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep through the night and also hypersomnia, which is when people sleep more than what is typical for them or more than what is considered average. Either one can be a symptom of depression.
Number five on our list is changes in psychomotor activity. What? What this means is that sometimes peoples’ actual rate that they’re moving in - they’re taking steps and walking and talking - may speed up or slow down. Sometimes you will see people who are experiencing depression who move really slowly and just all of their body movements are slower and their speech is slower. On the opposite end of that, sometimes people will have a feeling of restlessness, a kind of physical agitation that they just can’t get settled into and might be a little jittery. Both of those are forms of changes in psychomotor activity.
Next on my list is fatigue or loss of energy. For some people this shows up as a fatigue in your body, where you just feel like you’ve done a lot, maybe if you haven’t even been engaged in exercise. Or you feel like maybe you’re physically ill in your body and you’re just really tired even though you aren’t actually physically sick. So that kind of fatigue or not having the energy even if you’re trying to get yourself to get up and do stuff, it might just be really hard with depression.
The next symptom on the list is feelings of worthlessness or sometimes feelings of guilt. So it may seem unusual to other people around somebody with depression as to why it feels like they’re putting everything on themselves in terms of blaming themselves, feeling responsible for things that are really out of their control, feeling bad about things more severely than they should or feeling bad about things that are outside of their responsibility. That can be a symptom of depression.
Next on the list we have difficulty with concentration and indecisiveness. This to me is one of the mental performance changes that people will notice with depression. It can be hard to complete tasks, hard to do your work, to do your school assignments, maintain your focus or make basic decisions about which purchase to make, what to make for dinner. All kinds of things like that can be difficult to work through when you’re experiencing that symptom of indecisiveness and difficulty concentrating.
And then the last symptom on the list is thoughts of death, reoccurring thoughts of suicide, or what I usually ask people about is just a feeling that you don’t want to be alive anymore. This can become more severe where people will actually think of planning out how they might want to attempt suicide or actually making a suicide attempt. This is obviously a pretty serious symptom of depression that we’re really concerned about.
So it’s important to know these symptoms. A good portion of people are going to experience depression at some point in their life. And so by knowing these symptoms you can help tease out a situation where somebody might need help, whether it be yourself or somebody that you care about. And the good news with depression is that we do treatments that can help people overcome these symptoms and live more satisfying and fulfilling lives, which is really our goal.
So one of the ways that you can get help for yourself or for somebody that you care about who you think might be experiencing depression, might be experiencing some of these symptoms, is to talk with a therapist. Schedule a free consultation where you can talk with one of our therapists about the symptoms that you’ve been experiencing. And we can help figure out if further assessment would be a good idea or if there are other people and other professionals that you might want to talk to about your situation.
You can also find more information about therapy here.