There are several common signs and symptoms of depression. While it’s normal to experience feelings of sadness and even short episodes of depressed feelings, long-lasting symptoms of depression can have a negative impact on your ability to function basic daily tasks.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at one of the most common questions we hear from people – what are the signs and symptoms of depression?
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Depression?
While it is sometimes frowned upon by professionals when we come into the office ready with our own internet diagnosis, it can be helpful to have completed some of our own research into what we think the problem is.
The information we gather can help the diagnosing professional to better understand the situation and can lessen the chances that an inaccurate diagnosis is provided.
The following are descriptions of the more common signs and symptoms that are associated with clinical depression. Run through this list if you suspect you or a loved one may be suffering from depression. If one or more of these symptoms of depression resonate with you, it may be time to consider the benefits of exploring depression treatment.
So, what are the signs and symptoms of depression?
Loss of interest in activities that once seemed exciting is one of the most familiar symptoms of depression. This loss of interest is often accompanied by the inability to experience a sense of joy or happiness. This combination of lack of motivation and lack of positive feelings is known as anhedonia, and it is present in several forms of mental disorder. It can manifest in areas such as a decrease in sexual drive, withdrawing from social activities, or simply feeling bored with life. The experience of anhedonia can tempt a person toward using drugs or alcohol in an attempt to bring some excitement back into life, but the substances also increase the tendency to experience anhedonia while sober.
Changes in Appetite
Many people who are suffering from depression will report that their eating habits have changed. Some will note that they have increased their food intake and will complain of gaining weight. Others will find that they no longer experience any joy while eating, and so will find it hard to take in enough calories during the day. Both overeating and the lack of desire to eat are tied to the fact that our brains are designed to release feel-good chemicals when we eat. For the person chasing a boost from that chemical, eating more is a way to obtain it. For a person who drops weight while depressed, the feel-good chemical boost may be imperceptible while eating.
Most people experience days when our brain is just not operating in top shape. For someone suffering from depression, these days of brain fog may be more than just occasional. The term is used to describe a sense of cloudiness in the mind, similar to how heavy fog would make navigating your way through a dense forest very difficult. A person experiencing mental fog won’t be able to retrieve stored information as readily as before and will have difficulty with storing new information. Such a person may be observed by others as zoning out or seeming disconnected during interactions and may be observed as moving very slowly throughout the day.
Some of the mental fog that is experienced by someone with depression can be present due to excessively thinking about other things. One of the hallmarks of depression is the tendency for all of those thoughts to be negative. A depressed person will tend to replay past events within the mind, and will consistently interpret those events in a negative light. There are likely to be mental scenarios involving guilt, loss, betrayal, and failures. Repeatedly thinking about unsolvable problems that are not occurring in the present moment is called rumination. For a depressed person, rumination often involves rehashing events in the past that cannot be changed.
When we are busy beating ourselves up for an inability to go back in time and do things differently, it is hard to feel good about ourselves. It is also difficult to maintain a good level of self-esteem when we are busy beating ourselves up for beating ourselves up. People with depression tend to be very hard on themselves and will judge themselves under the harshest of lights. They may consistently be comparing themselves with other people whom they deem more successful and will use that information to confirm to themselves that they are simply not good enough. Like with rumination, being stuck in a mindset of low self-esteem can create a vicious cycle. When we are acting without confidence, we create the conditions for failure. Repeated perceptions of failure will tend to feed the beast of low self-esteem.
Thoughts of Suicide
Depression is the primary mental disorder associated with suicide. A person who is unable to experience joy, can’t think clearly, is stuck in the past, and believes that he or she is not good enough may find little point in continuing with life. Hope is the primary state of being which drives us onward, and a person with depression tends to possess little of it. The experience of having hope requires that we be able to conceive of a fulfilling future, and believe that we possess the means of reaching it. Without hope, life can appear meaningless, and navigating it becomes a chore. If you are experiencing thoughts of ending your life through suicide, it is very important that you seek help, immediately. A qualified person will be able to assist you to clear out some of that fog so that you can see some of the light that is waiting for you at the end of the tunnel.
Diagnosis of Depression
Most people will experience days that they are feeling down in the dumps or are lacking in motivation. Events in life can also trigger a process of uncertainty and grief which produce feelings of depression, as can living under circumstances that are genuinely oppressive. There are also certain medical conditions that can contribute to being in a state of depression.
In order to receive a mental health diagnosis of major depression, non-psychological sources of the feelings of depression will need to be ruled out. There will also be a set of criteria that includes experiencing at least five of the associated symptoms for a period of at least two weeks. There are some other, associated, diagnoses that can also apply, so it is important to go over your specific situation with your treating provider before determining the correct diagnosis for you.