Have you had trouble finding pleasure in activities you once enjoyed recently? Is it hard for you to summon the motivation to try new things? While this can be normal at times, these symptoms may point to the presence of a depressive disorder. Often characterized by low mood, fatigue, and lack of motivation, depression can be a common mental health condition that typically impacts approximately 21 million American adults. Despite its complex symptoms and high prevalence, depression can be a highly treatable condition. One way to treat depression may be with therapy, and you can connect with a licensed therapist in your local area or through an online therapy platform.
What Is Depression?
The term “depression” can encompass several different disorders, including persistent depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, postpartum depression, and major depressive disorder. Depressive disorders are usually thought to be caused by a mix of biological and environmental factors. They also frequently arise alongside other mental health conditions. Common mental and physical depression symptoms can include hopelessness, changes in diet, sleep disruptions, physical pain, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, and trouble focusing.
Common Signs Of Depression
If happiness has been elusive recently, your feelings may signal the presence of a depressive disorder. Below, we’ve listed several of the common symptoms of depression, how they may affect you, and what you can do to alleviate them.
It can be important to note that you may not experience all these signs if you’re living with depression. However, knowing that you live with some of them may help you determine whether pursuing treatment is the right choice for you.
A common method for managing low mood may be therapy, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy. With cognitive behavioral therapy, a mental health professional can help you reframe intrusive thoughts that may be leading to a loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities, lack of motivation, and sadness. For example, your therapist might help you see that your low mood could be linked to thoughts about your self-worth. By thinking positively about your value, you can start to alleviate those negative feelings.
Depression and sleep typically have a bidirectional relationship, meaning that depression can cause disruptions to your sleep patterns, and sleep loss can exacerbate depression. If you find that you’re sleeping more or less than you used to, this could be a sign of depression.
To address this symptom, it can help to develop a nighttime routine. This can include creating a restful environment where you sleep, tending to your hygiene, reading, meditating, and engaging in other activities that prepare you for sleep and help you develop consistency in your sleep regimen. It can also help to avoid your phone and other electronics for an hour before bed.
Changes In Appetite
Have you been unusually hungry or less interested in food than normal? Researchers have found that some of the areas of the brain that influence depression may also contribute to appetite. One common way this symptom shows up can be through weight fluctuations. If you find that you’ve gained or lost weight recently, or have experienced sudden increases or decreases in appetite, depression could be to blame.
If you’re experiencing changes in appetite, it can help to stick to a three-meals-per-day routine and try to eat at the same time for each meal throughout the week. Consider creating meal plans and, if you’re able, preparing meals for your week in advance. Because depression can affect your ability to get things done, meal prepping can make it easier for you to enjoy healthy meals throughout the week.
Depression can make it hard to concentrate for extended periods of time, which can affect several aspects of your life. You may have more trouble solving problems, making decisions, or planning than you once did. These cognitive effects can be especially pronounced at work, in school, or in similar environments that require extended focus.
One helpful way of practicing extended focus may be through mindfulness. Mindfulness can help you learn to eliminate distractions and put your attention on the present moment. You can find many different types of guided mindfulness meditations online.
Depression and anxiety can be common comorbidities. According to a World Health Organization survey, 45.7% of people who live with major depressive disorder may have also experienced an anxiety disorder. Even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder, experiencing common anxiety symptoms, such as irritability, worry, and restlessness, could be a sign that you’re living with depression.
Deep breathing is a practice that may help with anxiety symptoms. Recent research shows that deep breathing techniques can reduce stress and manage the symptoms of mood disorders, suggesting that they can be beneficial for both depression and anxiety. One common deep breathing exercise may be box breathing. To practice box breathing, inhale for a four-count, hold your breath for a four-count, exhale for a four-count, and hold your breath again for a four-count. Repeat this process three to four times.
There can be several common physical indicators of depression, including back pain, joint aches, and gastrointestinal distress. Unexplained aches and pains are sometimes the most noticeable symptoms an individual experiences, and they can exacerbate the mental and emotional symptoms of depression.
If you’re living with physical signs of depression, low-impact physical activity could help you alleviate them. Yoga is one form of exercise that may reduce chronic pain, including neck and back aches. Consider starting an at-home yoga practice or joining a studio.
Treatment Options For Depression
The first-line treatment for depression is typically a combination of medication and psychotherapy. If you’re interested in trying medication as part of your treatment, be sure to speak with your doctor or psychiatrist. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting or stopping any medication.
With either in-person or online therapy, you can learn more about the signs of depression in your life, address your symptoms, and explore underlying reasons for your feelings. A therapist can provide you with support and compassion, along with useful tips for managing depression on an everyday basis.
Benefits Of Online Therapy
Online therapy can be a convenient and affordable way of managing depression and similar mental health challenges so that you can start living a happy, healthy life. Using an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can participate in sessions remotely, which can be helpful if a lack of motivation is making it difficult to leave your home. You may also have the option of reaching out to your therapist outside of sessions. If you want to clarify a point made during therapy or have a question about a depression symptom, you can send them a message, and they’ll normally respond when they’re able. A licensed mental health professional can discuss their expertise in depressive disorders and guide you as you learn how to manage your depression symptoms.
Effectiveness Of Online Therapy
A large body of evidence generally points to online therapy as an effective form of mental health care for those who are experiencing sadness and other feelings commonly associated with depression. For example, in a meta-analysis of 29 studies, researchers found that online cognitive behavioral therapy usually reduced symptoms of depression in participants as effectively as in-person therapy. As discussed above, cognitive behavioral therapy is a widely utilized method of care that can help individuals reframe thought patterns that may lead to decreases in happiness or other depression symptoms.
Below, you can read some reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people who have sought help for similar challenges.
"Where to begin? For many years I've been depressed and anxiety has been a big part of my life. The way she lets you understand what you are going through is amazing and life changing. Thank you so much. I really appreciate what you are doing with me."
"Karen has helped me challenge some long-held beliefs - stories I had been telling myself about my life's experiences. Stories that had kept me stuck for decades. With her help, I've cleared the path and began to move forward with greater compassion for myself. I'm grateful to her for allowing me to see my lifelong experiences in a much more useful way and cannot recommend her highly enough!"
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What does it mean when nothing can make you happy?
If you never experience happiness, this may be a symptom of a depressive disorder. It can be helpful to seek the insight of a licensed mental health professional.
What do I do if I’m just not happy?
Seeking support, whether that be from friends, family members, or a therapist, can be helpful when you’re not feeling happy.
Why do I feel like crying when happy?
It can be normal to cry when you’re happy, but if you find yourself crying all the time, it’s possible you may be having trouble managing your emotions.
How can I feel happy and normal again?
Often, negative feelings pass with time, but if your emotions are negatively impacting your daily life, it can be helpful to work with a therapist.
Why is life so hard?
Life is often challenging, but maintaining a positive mindset may be helpful. Seeking the professional guidance of a licensed mental health professional may be wise if you’re having trouble functioning in everyday life.
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