How Do You Know If You Are Depressed?
We all have bad days or times we are down in the dumps. We all feel sad sometimes. But for many people (1 in 10 actually) they may be suffering from clinical depression and not even know it. You may be thinking, “If I don’t know I am depressed, why would I want to find out?” For one thing, depression can become more severe over time, if not treated. So while you may be experiencing mild symptoms of depression now, the chance of those symptoms worsening in the future are great. On the other hand, many people throw around the term “depression” or say “I’m so depressed” without giving it much thought. Maybe you are experiencing what you think is depression, but in actuality, you are just struggling with bouts of sadness, and do not truly meet the criteria to be diagnosed with depression. The point is, like any mental illness, depression is a serious disease, and warrants appropriate treatment. The stigma around mental health is prevalent and it is important for the general public (and not just mental health professionals) to be educated about mental health problems and what to look out for.
So, how do you know if you are depressed, or just having a difficult time? Educating yourself on the symptoms of depression is the most straightforward approach. It is important to note that depression affects everyone differently and there are a wide range of symptoms that can occur.
Symptoms of Clinical Depression
- Changes in appetite – if you recognize that you are eating a lot more than usual or your appetite has decreased significantly, you might be noticing a symptom of clinical depression.
- Loss of interest in hobbies – if you are no longer participating in the hobbies and activities you previously enjoyed; partaking in these hobbies and activities do not provide pleasure and instead feel like a chore.
- Changes in sexual desire – if your interest in sex has changed dramatically, leaving you with little to no desire for intimacy with your partner.
- Engaging in reckless behaviors – depression and the difficult emotions that come along with it may have you seeking new ways to manage those feelings. Participating in reckless behavior (such as promiscuous sex, excessive gambling, or use of substances and alcohol) is often a way people attempt to cope.
- Experiencing decreased energy – depression can cause you to feel tired and sluggish much of the time, even when engaging in minor tasks.
- Feelings of hopelessness or “emptiness” – feeling bleak, desperate, or experiencing no emotions.
- Trouble concentrating – if you are unable to focus, and this is not better explained by another diagnosis (such as Attention Deficit Disorder), you may be experiencing a symptom of depression.
- Changes in sleep – similar to changes in appetite, if you are suffering from depression you may notice variations in your sleep pattern. Sleep changes, whether you are having difficulty sleeping, or you find yourself sleeping for long periods of time, can indicate a potential struggle with depression.
If after reading the above listed symptoms, you feel you may be depressed, your next question might be why? Although there is no one concrete cause for depression, there are many contributing factors that play a part in why someone may develop depression at some point in their life.
What Causes Depression?
- Serious ailments – serious illness and ailments can significantly change the way you live your life, from impacting mobility and independence, to changing how you view yourself. A certain amount of sorrow and sadness is expected, but if you experience hopelessness or suicidal thoughts, your illness might be triggering depression.
- Genetics – depression is often cited as an inherited syndrome; if you have a family member who struggles with clinical depression, you are at an increased risk of experiencing depression as well.
- Grief and Loss – experiencing grief when you have had a loss in your life is common and expected. No one grieves the same way, and there is no timeline. Yet, grief can turn into depression. Look out for signs like isolating yourself, significant appetite changes, and thoughts of suicide.
- Medications – certain medications have side effects of increased risk of depression.
- Trauma – having a history of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual) can put you at increased risk of developing depression.
- Weather – when the weather changes, so can your mood. If you notice significant changes, like increased fatigue, lethargy, and/or decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities, then weather related depression could be the culprit. This is referred to as seasonal affective disorder, and although it is treated somewhat differently than clinical depression, it is still a form of depression, and warrants treatment.
- Hormonal changes – depression can surface during times in your life where hormone levels are changing such as pregnancy, menopause, and thyroid complications.
- Substance abuse – this one is a little more complicated, as it is unclear for many people, which comes first, the depression, or the substance abuse. Due to difficult emotions, individuals often turn to substances and alcohol as coping mechanisms. But sometimes, substance abuse precedes depression.
If you think you might be depressed, contact a mental health professional. Depression is treatable, and getting help can help intervene on what could otherwise turn into a debilitating disease.