As we all know, life contains a series of ups and downs. While it’s natural to occasionally weather a spell of melancholy, clinical depression is a serious — often undiagnosed — illness.
One of the most dangerous aspects of depression is its ability to fly under the radar — simply put, many people don’t realize they’re depressed. A person’s friends and family may also miss the warning signs, unknowingly writing off someone’s mood changes as “just a phase.”
The key is knowing what to look for. Here are eight common symptoms of depression that can help you determine whether you or someone you know could be suffering from depression:
1. Impaired Concentration — Depression creates a lack of mental cohesion that can manifest as an inability to focus, difficulty remembering details, and problems making decisions. People can be scattered by nature; however, if a person’s behavior trends unusually in this direction, it can be indicative of a real problem.
2. Fatigue/Energy Loss — Ongoing listlessness can be a strong signal of depression, especially if there are no other factors at work that might logically explain the fatigue.
3. Restlessness/Anxiety — Unfounded, general nervousness, inability to relax, and a nagging certainty that things are going off the rails — particularly in the absence of evidence — can indicate depression.
4. Irritability — A regular aggravation response to the world can serve as another warning that depression may be consolidating its power nearby. One possible effect of depression is a feeling akin to road rage that pops up frequently, even when the person feeling it isn’t actually behind the wheel of a car. Someone whose temper is on a perpetual low boil may be suffering from depression.
5. Sleep Pattern Disruption — Changes in a person’s long-established, characteristic sleep patterns should be seen as a red flag. A depressed person might get too little sleep, due to conditions such as insomnia or early morning wakefulness, or they can get too much sleep (known as “hypersomnia”).
6. Eating Pattern Disruption — Similarly, a significant change in food intake can be an indicator of depression. A depressed person may suffer from under-eating due loss of appetite, or from over-eating resulting from an unhealthy increase in appetite.
7. Nagging Physical Symptoms — Depression can unleash plagues of inexplicable physical manifestations, such as persistent aches and pains, cramps, or digestive woes. These issues can seem to come from nowhere, and may refuse to subside even in the face of medical treatment, perhaps indicating a psychosomatic underlying cause.
8. Overall Bleak Outlook — A dire emotional state can make itself felt in various guises, some of which include:
- Persistent feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness, pessimism, defeatism, sadness, and emptiness.
- Inability to feel pleasure, even with respect to activities that formerly brought joy (this growing joylessness can come to include sex).
- In a worst-case scenario: thoughts of suicide, or actual suicide attempts. Such thoughts and actions should never be ignored, and should be regarded as screaming alarm signals.
Depression is a sly predator. Thankfully, growing awareness of its seriousness and of its distinctive characteristics has allowed us to make headway in recognizing it, calling it out, and successfully treating it. If you recognize any of the above symptoms in yourself or someone within your orbit, depression may be a very real presence. In such cases, professional help is a critical step in resolving the issue. Depression can be dealt with in very effective and positive fashion. Simply by recognizing it, you’ve already won a huge part of the battle.
PHOTO: Ryan Melaugh