Warning Signs of Depression
1 in 5 people will suffer from depression in their lifetime so many of us will be touched by this disease at some point. Look out for these common signs that you or someone you love may be suffering from depression.
Common Warning Signs of Depression
Many of us suffer from situational depression at times of loss or change, which can take a few days or weeks to pass. Major depression is different. Once the symptoms begin, it is very easy for them to slide out of control and last for weeks, months, even years. The most common warning signs of depression are:
- Sadness and Low Mood: Everyone feels sad from time to time. But for those who are depressed, the feeling of sadness can consume them completely. A person’s emotions may be up and down at a moment’s notice, resulting in increased tearfulness for no clear reason, an “empty” or “numb” feeling, an inability to feel or express happiness, and a sense of impending doom.
- A Sense of Hopelessness: Depression can create a pessimistic outlook in all areas of life. You may feel like you have little control over your own choices and can’t see a different path. Some people describe feeling “empty” or being dragged into a “black hole” from which they can’t escape.
- Feelings of Guilt: Many people with depression experience self-loathing, worthlessness, and feel that everything is wrong and that it is their fault. This tendency to be overly self-critical means they can quickly lose perspective. They often fixate and ruminate on past mistakes, and inappropriately blame themselves for experiences such as being badly treated or failing to meet unrealistic demands.
- Loss of Interest in Usual Activities: Depression takes the pleasure and enjoyment out of things, which can leave you feeling indifferent in your personal and professional life. You may find that you are more averse to hobbies, social activities, and going to work. Many people complain of having no energy or motivation and feeling unproductive. Common signs of this include blank stares and moving and speaking slowly.
- Withdrawing from Friends and Family: Social withdrawal is one of the most tell-tale signs of depression. You may feel a strong urge to pull away from others and shut down, and, as a result, begin to decline invitations to join family and friends. Emotionally withdrawing from a partner can put a strain on the relationship. Social withdrawal is exactly the opposite of what we need and typically worsens the condition.
- Anger and Irritability: When everything seems magnified, it can be easy to feel agitated and restless. You may have a lower tolerance level than usual and be quicker to anger. You may also struggle to focus and make decisions. Increased irritability makes it difficult to relax, which can result in constant pacing or standing up and sitting back down.
- Self-Medicating with Alcohol or Drugs: Depression may cause some people to become reckless. The constant sadness and sense of hopelessness can overcrowd the mind, causing escapist behaviour such as substance abuse and compulsive gambling.
- Sleeping Too Much or Too Little: Changes to sleeping patterns are often the first sign of an underlying health condition such as depression. Depression's effect on sleep varies from person to person; some people regularly wake during the night, while others find that they oversleep and struggle to get up in the morning.
- Changes to Appetite: Depression can cause significant weight loss or weight gain. It generally affects appetite in one of two ways; it either results in a complete loss of interest in food or triggers emotional, mindless eating. If you notice a 5% change in body weight in the space of one month, it may be an indication of depression.
- Physical Changes: Depression can also trigger physical changes in the body, such as chronic aches and pains, digestive problems, and headaches. If these don’t respond to traditional treatment, then depression may be the cause.
- Preoccupation with Death: Depression is a major risk factor for suicide. It reduces a person’s problem-solving ability and causes tunnel vision, which can make suicide falsely appear as a solution to escape the pain. People with depression may have an unusual preoccupation with death, express strong feelings of hopelessness or feeling trapped, or say things like “everyone would be better off without me”.
Recognising the symptoms in yourself or someone you know is crucial to getting the right help. Not everyone with depression will suffer from the same symptoms, and their severity can vary over time. If symptoms are present for more than two weeks, consult with a health professional.
Signs of Depression in Women
Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men, which is in part due to hormonal factors and the signs of depression in women can differ slightly to men. Women with depression often suffer from feelings of sadness and guilt, in addition to oversleeping, overeating, and gaining weight. Women with postpartum depression may also feel guilty that they aren’t handling motherhood better and are struggling to bond with their baby.
Signs of Depression in Men
Signs of depression in men are more likely to include irritability, misplaced anger, and reckless behaviour. They are also commonly affected by low energy levels and sleep problems. Suicide rates are high in men, particularly mature men, partly because some men view depression as a sign of weakness and are less likely to seek help.
In teenagers, the main signs of depression are often irritability and self-loathing rather than sadness. They may seem hostile and grumpy or complain of unexplained aches and pains. As a result, some teens have problems at home and at school, and with drug abuse.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Some people may find that their mood drops during the winter months, then recovers during the summer months. Seasonal Affective Disorder, aptly referred to as SAD, is thought to be caused by a reduced exposure to natural sunlight during the colder months. SAD temporarily results in common symptoms of depression, making you feel like a completely different person during the winter and summer months.
Lifestyle Tips to Fight Depression
While lifestyle alone may not cure depression, simple changes can help to relieve many of the symptoms. Try to eat a healthy and nutritious diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. It is also important to live an active lifestyle. This doesn’t need to be too challenging – just a daily walk can help to improve mood. It is also important to reach out to people who can help such as friends, family and medical professionals.
Natural Remedies for Depression
There are several effective natural remedies for depression, the most popular being St Johns Wort. This herb has long been used to relieve nervous tension, anxiety and low mood, and many people find it as effective as prescription medications for depression, without any of the nasty side effects. Other popular herbal remedies include Rhodiola and 5HTP.
Read 7 natural remedies for depression for more detailed advice about alternative treatments for depression.