Being unhappy isn’t the same as being depressed. Depression is a term often used loosely to describe how we feel after a bad week at work or when we’re going through a breakup. But major depressive disorder — a type of depression — is much more complicated. There are specific symptoms that determine whether it’s depression or the sadness we all sometimes experience in life.
Determining if persistent, unshakable dark feelings are a result of depression can be the first step toward healing and recovery. Read through these warning signs to see if it’s time for you to see a mental health professional.
Major depression is a mood disorder that affects the way you feel about life in general. Having a hopeless or helpless outlook on your life is the most common symptom of depression.
Other feelings may be worthlessness, self-hate, or inappropriate guilt. Common, recurring thoughts of depression may be vocalized as, “It’s all my fault,” or “What’s the point?”
Depression can take the pleasure or enjoyment out of the things you love. A loss of interest or withdrawal from activities that you once looked forward to — sports, hobbies, or going out with friends — is yet another telltale sign of major depression.
Another area where you may lose interest is sex. Symptoms of major depression include a decreased sex drive and even impotence.
Part of the reason you might stop doing things you enjoy is because you feel very tired. Depression often comes with a lack of energy and an overwhelming feeling of fatigue, which can be among the most debilitating symptoms of depression. This could lead to excessive sleeping.
Depression is also linked with insomnia, as one might lead to the other and vice versa. They can also make each other worse. The lack of quality, restful sleep can also lead to anxiety.
While depression hasn’t been shown to cause anxiety, the two conditions often occur together. Symptoms of anxiety can include:
- nervousness, restlessness, or feeling tense
- feelings of danger, panic, or dread
- rapid heart rate
- rapid breathing
- increased or heavy sweating
- trembling or muscle twitching
- trouble focusing or thinking clearly about anything other than the thing you’re worried about
Depression can affect the sexes differently. Research shows that men with depression may have symptoms such as irritability, escapist or risky behavior, substance abuse, or misplaced anger.
Men are also less likely than women to recognize depression or seek treatment for it.
Weight and appetite can fluctuate for people with depression. This experience may be different for each person. Some people will have an increased appetite and gain weight, while others won’t be hungry and will lose weight.
One indication of whether dietary changes are related to depression is if they’re intentional or not. If they’re not, it may mean that they’re caused by depression.
One minute it’s an outburst of anger. The next you’re crying uncontrollably. Nothing outside of you prompted the change, but your emotions are up and down at a moment’s notice. Depression can cause mood swings.
Depression is sometimes connected with suicide. In 2013, more than 42,000 people died from suicide in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source.
People who die by suicide usually show symptoms first. Often people will talk about it or make a first attempt before succeeding in ending their life. If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:
- Call 911 or your local emergency number.
- Stay with the person until help arrives.
- Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
- Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.
If you think someone is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
If you have had some of the previously mentioned symptoms for more than two weeks, you might be suffering from major depression disorder. Recognizing that you’re depressed is essential to getting the right help.
Depression affects millions of people, but there are varying treatments available, from lifestyle changes to medications. No matter the path of treatment you choose, asking for professional help is the first step to getting back to feeling like yourself again.