Everyone has feelings of sadness sometimes. But when these feelings persist, it can signal a very real problem. Many people have the harmful misconception that major depression is akin to these bouts of sadness, and thus can be brushed off easily. Those who experience depression will tell you there is a clear-cut difference between low moods and legitimate clinical depression.
Unfortunately, because many people are unaware of how depression can affect someone, they will often be unable to recognize and treat depressive symptoms in themselves, too.
How can you tell if you have hidden depression? What are the most common signs that can trigger depression? Take a look at this short depression guide to find out, and learn about options for therapy for depression.
What is Depression?
First off, it might help to clear up a few misconceptions about depressive disorders. Anxiety and depression are not the same thing. No mental illness can be interchanged with another, though their symptoms may often coincide. A patient could have both depression and bipolar disorders, for instance, but it does not mean that you can lump their symptoms together. Just being aware of the symptoms of depression can already be a huge step forward in better understanding mental health conditions.
Depression (or major depressive disorder) is among one of the most prevalent mood disorders. It is characterized by deep feelings of worthlessness, which in turn negatively affects your physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as your day-to-day activities. It can become a harmful spiral that is difficult to pull yourself out of.
If you experience one or more of these symptoms on a daily basis, then you should think about scheduling an appointment with a mental health professional.
Depression can greatly impact your mood, resulting in feelings of guilt, extreme sadness, hopelessness, irritation or frustration with yourself, and self-hate. This in turn can negatively impact your self-esteem. In fact, low self-esteem is perhaps the most common sign of depression.
Changes in Appetite
If you have depression, it can be difficult to even get out of bed in the morning, much less prepare a whole meal for yourself to eat. This can result in unwanted weight changes that may make you feel worse.
Indeed, your appetite and weight may fluctuate wildly depending on your mood. Some depressed people will even develop an eating disorder where they will eat a lot more or a lot less than normal. Weight gain as well as significant weight loss are fairly common symptoms of depression.
What most people do not know is that mental disorders can actually manifest physical symptoms. These symptoms can ravage your health, leading to all sorts of complications.
You might find it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. This can lead to you having difficulty concentrating on daily tasks or even functioning on a day-to-day basis. It can be so debilitating at times that you will feel as if there is no point to doing anything anymore.
Lower Sex Drive
Depression can suck out the enjoyment of things you once enjoyed doing. This can include hobbies, sports, and even sex. You might find yourself lacking the energy or motivation to even start up these activities again.
It is very easy to develop substance use disorders alongside your depression. If you are feeling empty and sad all the time, you might look to alcohol or drugs to dampen that awful effect. Even a fleeting moment of tranquility might be better than this endless sadness, right?
In actuality, this is not a good way to cope at all. People who suffer from this symptom will only damage their bodies further, which can lead to feeling even worse about themselves. Instead of turning to harmful coping mechanisms, it is better to seek treatment.
Depression in Children vs. Depression in Adults
Mayo Clinic (1) states that children and adolescents are just as susceptible to depression as adults. However, their symptoms will differ slightly than adult depression. Children and teens with depression tend to be clingier, more sensitive, less social, have poor attendance or poor performance in school, or self-harm.
In adults, particularly those who are middle-age or older, depression tends to manifest itself in more physical ways, such as aches and pains, chronic fatigue, or loss of appetite. They may also have more issues with their memory or experience swift personality changes.
Types of Depression
Depression is not a one-size-fits-all disorder. Depression affects different people in different ways.
As its name implies, this is the mildest form of depression. You will still experience most (if not all) of the symptoms of depression, but will still be able to function through your day-to-day life, albeit with some difficulty. Because the symptoms are on the milder end, most people tend to brush their worries off. Thus, this type of depression is actually the hardest to diagnose.
This form of depression will start to take a toll on your home, social, and work life. Your depression may interfere with your usual productivity, making you feel lethargic or simply unmotivated. Your self-esteem issues may increase, or you may find it harder to shake off your sadness, hopelessness, or general apathy to your situation.
This is the most severe form of depression, and will greatly impact all aspects of your life. Typically, patients with this form of depression will begin to feel as if they are living in a stupor, which can lead to delusions or hallucinations.
Those with severe depression will also have suicidal thoughts or behaviors, including suicide attempts. If your depression has become so severe that you are contemplating suicide, please call the national helpline for suicide prevention in your country. Seeking immediate medical attention is the best solution.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
This disorder is not necessarily a separate diagnosis on its own, but rather an indicator for how long a patient has had depression. Typically, a person’s depression is classified as persistent depressive disorder if their depression has lasted at least 2 years or more.
This is a unique type of depression in women that occurs either during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth. It is characterized by a mother suddenly feeling too sad, anxious, or exhausted to properly care for their newborn child.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) tends to only affect people more in the wintertime. There is less natural sunlight out during this time, which can cause your mood to dip drastically. You might find yourself sleeping in more, withdrawing from social circles, and gaining more weight.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
This is a disorder similar to premenstrual syndrome, but much more severe. You might feel extremely irritable, anxious, or depressed a week or two leading up to your period. The symptoms will typically decline at least 2 to 3 days after your period starts.
What Causes Depression?
There is no one cause of depression. Plenty of factors can play into why someone might develop this condition.
- You might be genetically predisposed to developing depression.
- Certain medications or hormonal changes might also trigger it.
- You could also have some past trauma or lifestyle choices that contribute to its development, too.
It is best to talk with your doctor about your symptoms. They can help you look further into what has caused your depression in the first place.
Telling people with depression to simply “get over it” is extremely harmful and counterproductive. A depressed mood is vastly different from major depressive disorder.
Treating depressed patients with the care they deserve should be your goal. Here are a few treatment options you can try below.
An activity as simple as talking to your loved ones during a depressive episode can help you feel better. Of course, it is best to talk to a licensed therapist about your depressive symptoms, so they can help identify the source of your emotional distress. They can then help you understand how exactly your stressors affect your life and how to reduce the severity of your symptoms.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is another great, discreet tool for you to use if you are too anxious to visit a therapist in person. The suicide prevention hotline number for American patients is 800-273-8255. You can also chat online with counselors (2) if phone calls make you anxious as well.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
This treatment uses a highly-focused magnetic field that can either stimulate or inhibit certain nerve cells in your brain. Brief, painless magnetic pulses are repeatedly shot through to the brain’s mood center, which can then release natural chemicals that control your depression.
Indeed, this stimulation can be used to treat both depression and anxiety, as well as other physiological issues. It is FDA-approved and a great alternative to medicine or other treatment methods.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is when doctors will pass small electric currents through your brain while you are under anesthesia. This can change your brain chemistry enough to temporarily reverse the symptoms of your mental illnesses, including depression.