Depression Symptoms And What You Should Be Looking For
By: Patricia Oelze
Updated May 11, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Deborah Horton
Symptoms of Depression: Everyday Blues or More?
What is depression and how does it affect everyday life? Most people have experienced symptoms of sadness and everyday blues from time to time, a short term depressed mood where recovery comes relatively quickly. Usually brought on by a major life stressor such as losing a loved one or getting fired. Sometimes these feelings are experienced almost daily for no reason that seems to be obvious. Major Depressive Disorder is the most common mood disorder among adults. Affecting most people with their first episode before they are thirty-two. Once a person has had an incident with depression, they are more likely to have a follow-up episode.
A major depressive disorder episode would last for at least two weeks and affect a person's ability to carry out everyday activities, have fulfilling personal relationships, and their ability to work. A person who is clinically depressed would have one of the following two symptoms for no less than two weeks, nearly every day: An unusually sad mood or loss of interest in activities that they used to find enjoyable. They may also have the following symptoms:
- Changes in eating habits, either eating too much or not at all
- Thinking about death often or wishing they were dead
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Changes in sleeping habits, too much or not enough
- Feeling worthless
- Guilt even though they are not at fault
- Moving slowly
- Inability to settle
- Easily agitated
These symptoms are not in every single person who is clinically depressed. Every person will differ in their number of symptoms and the severity of them. Just because the symptoms do not equate to an official diagnosis, they can still leave a lasting impact on life.
How Depression Affects Emotions, Thoughts, Behavior, and Physical Appearance
All these symptoms of depression affect different categories in each person such as: emotions, thinking, behavior, and physical well-being and appearance.
When it comes to the emotional aspect of depression mood swings are most common. Emotional symptoms of depression include sadness, fear, shame, anxiety, guilt, and anger. There can also be a lack of emotional responsiveness or feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Most people suffering from depression will also be irritable. The emotions that are brought on by depression can be extremely overwhelming, leaving some people with a complete numbness to what they are feeling.
Depression can also target your thought process, firing more negative thoughts when you are already feeling down. Some of the thoughts that could be bringing you down are self-blame, worry, pessimism, indecisiveness, confusion, the belief that others see you in a negative light, self-criticism, and thoughts of death and suicide. These thoughts can be paralyzing and cause a person to spiral downward. One must go beneath how they are feeling to understand these powerful thoughts and regain control over their mind and how the see themselves.
Behavior is the next part of a person that depression can affect. Some will experience loss of motivation, and they will be slowed down, neglect their responsibilities, withdrawal from others, and could have crying spells. One of the most common depression behavioral traits is that people will turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. Sometimes they will also have unsafe sex as a method of dealing with the intense emotional pain. Cutting is another behavior to look for. Self-injuring is a non-suicidal injury that can make some people suffering from depression feel better.
Lastly, we have physical symptoms of depression which include chronic fatigue, loss of sexual desire, weight loss or gain, headaches, lack of energy, sleeping too much or too little, irregular menstrual cycles in women, and unexplained aches and pains. A lot of these symptoms also happen in other conditions leading to people with depression not getting treated properly for their mental illness.
It has been said that depression can make you feel pain differently due to the improper function of nerve cell pathways connecting the areas that process emotional information in the brain. The person will appear sad, and there can be a lack of interest in personal hygiene. They may also be slow in thinking and moving, as well as their speech may be slow and monotonous. Sometimes with this, they will also be irritable, anxious, and easily moved to tears. With severe depression, a person could appear almost beyond tears and emotionally unresponsive.
How Mild and Moderate Depression Symptoms Differ from Severe Depression Symptoms
People with mild and moderate depression have symptoms that are more than just feeling blue, but it is not to the same severity level as severe depression. With cases of mild depression, one of the two core symptoms must be present, as well as at most, four related symptoms of depression. Mild depression may affect some people's day to day activities and how they function, but it will rarely completely put a halt to their lives like severe depression will. Medication is not usually needed with mild depression, and the symptoms will begin to subside on their own.
With moderate depression, both core symptoms will be present as well as four or more of the related symptoms. When depression reaches this heightened level, it will almost certainly affect daily life activities, as well as work, in one way or another. People suffering from moderate depression will take less time with their personal appearance and care. They may move in a sluggish fashion, having bent shoulders and their head down. Their facial expressions will also be noticeably different. Everything from a look of misery to sad eyes that appear to be glazed over. Of course, some people are good at masking the signs of depression and may not appear to have any of these physical characteristics. With moderate depression, medication will most likely be needed to get the person suffering back on track.
Symptoms of Depression in Women
Depression often varies depending on age and gender, including between men and women. Depression drains you of hope and energy, making it difficult to get to the things that make you feel better. Symptoms in women are dependent on many different factors including, reproductive hormones, pressure from their social life or social media, and how females respond to stress. Women tend to experience certain symptoms more than men, including seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder comes from the winter months when there is a lack of sunlight.
Women are also more likely to experience the symptoms of atypical depression. With atypical depression, rather than eating less, sleeping less, and losing weight, women will sleep more, eat more, and gain more weight. Binging on carbohydrates is a common symptom with women who are depressed. Woman also tend to blame themselves, feelings of guilt are much more prevalent. Other symptoms include: feeling sad, worthless, anxious, scared, they will avoid conflicts at all costs, have trouble setting boundaries, use friends, food, and "love" to self-medicate. Woman also find it easier to talk about self-doubt and despair.
Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression. This stretches across all ethnic, racial, and economic divides. Women will also tend to focus more on negative feelings, bringing them up over and over again. Although women also tend to express their emotions more and will release them by crying more frequently. Women also tend to react differently to stress, which can result in depression. This is a physiological response of the female body. Lastly, body image is a major factor in depression in women.
Symptoms of Depression in Men
Clinical findings and research have found that while men and women can develop the standard signs and symptoms of depression, they often experience depression differently and have different ways of coping with their depression. One of the most common signs of depression in men is drug and alcohol dependence.
Researchers are not sure if substance abuse is a symptom of depression or a co-occurring issue that is more prominent in men. Although substance abuse can make it harder to diagnose depression being the underlying cause. Symptoms in men include: anger, irritability, inflated ego, feelings of suspicion, having their guard up, they will create conflict, have a need to feel in control, and self-medicate with sex and alcohol. Men also find it weak to admit self-doubt or despair.
Men tend to turn to alcohol and drugs instead of admitting their feelings, asking for help, or seeking treatment from a professional. Sometimes men will become violently abusive. Some men may cope by throwing themselves into work or by engaging in dangerous activities and putting themselves in harm's way. Men are four times more likely to die by suicide over women. There is still research that needs to be done to understand depression in men and how they react to stress and the feelings that they have associated with depression. Making men more comfortable in talking about and acknowledging their depression can belifesavingg for many men, leading to proper diagnosis and treatment.
Symptoms of Depression in Teens
Our teenage years are a very stressful time, with many changes happening to us and around us, so it is not unusual for teens to feel blue or down in the dumps on occasion. Unrealistic expectations that are set on teens can create disappointment from parents and friends. Teens also tend to overreact when things go wrong in their life, feeling like it will never get better for them and this is the worst thing to ever happen to them. With social media, there is also a constant pressure that is put on teens of this generation. This is a time in their lives when teens need guidance from the adults around them to navigate through the difficulties they face. Although when a teens mood affects their ability to function in their daily activities, it may indicate that they have a serious emotional disorder that needs attention, adolescent depression.
Many factors can contribute to depression. People who suffer from depression may have too little or too much of certain brain chemicals. Teen depression is currently on the rise with one in five teens suffering from clinical depression. Depression in teens can often be hard to diagnose because teens always seem to be moody and it is seen as a normal response. Some symptoms that may indicate depression include: withdrawal from those around them, anger, overreaction to criticism, poor self-esteem, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, poor performance in school, indecision, problems with authority, and suicidal thoughts or actions.
These symptoms can indicate depression if they last for more than two weeks. Teens may also experiment with drugs and alcohol or engage in sexual promiscuity to avoid their feelings. They may also become angry and hostile which can lead to destroying the relationships around them as well as law enforcement having to get involved. It is extremely important that a teen who could be suffering from depression gets professional care immediately.
Depression and Anxiety
As stated earlier, most people will feel depressed or anxious at times due to difficult situations that are happening in their life at that time. Depression and anxiety disorders are different, although people with depression will often experience similar, if not the same, symptoms, as people with anxiety disorders do. Nervousness, irritability, problems sleeping, and problems concentrating are all symptoms that cross over between depression and anxiety.
Anxiety tends to come with panic attacks and social phobias and the distinction between what is normal anxiety and what is an anxiety disorder can be hard to find. Many people who develop depression will have some type of a history with anxiety in the past. Although there is no evidence that one disorder can cause the other, people just tend to suffer from both disorders.
In Conclusion: Getting Help
After reading this article and assessing the different symptoms of depression the most important lesson to be learned is if you feel like you or someone you know could be suffering from depression, then it is time to get professional help. Seeking out a therapist, who can help you take action against your depression, so treatment can begin, and you can take back control of your life. Medication can also be important if you are feeling suicidal or violent, although it is not a cure and having a therapist that you can speak to when needed is the best route to take.
There are many positive aspects of getting help for your depression, which can drastically alter your life after you have been suffering. Better sleep, as depression can rob you of your sleep which can make you more depressed. A better love life, restoring your self-confidence and your emotional connection to your partner. Relief from physical pain that depression can cause. Your performance at work can be improved making it easier for you to hold a job and focus on the tasks at hand. Treatment can also lead to less chaos and more control over your life. Depression treatment can restore the energy that you have lost which will help you regain control of your life. You will also find that your overall health will improve with treatment. Lastly, with treatment, you be less likely to have your depression return in the future.
It's not too late to get help. Do not try to wait it out to see if it will get better on its own. The longer your depression lasts, the worse symptoms tend to get, which leads to it being harder to treat in the end. Schedule an appointment with a therapist right away and get the treatment you deserve and need.
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