Whether it’s someone you love or yourself, depression isn’t always easy to determine. Everyone feels sad from time to time. But actual clinical depression is not the same as being sad, and it is important to know the signs. There are traditional signs like feeling hopeless and some signs that are far from obvious. Some people even hide their depression well, making it more difficult to determine. Learn how to spot depression and also how to get help for it.
We all feel sadness at times; that’s just normal behavior. Yet, contrary to what some believe, sadness and depression are two different things. Sadness may come from a variety of events. You may have lost a job or heard about a celebrity’s passing. Those feelings of sadness go away with time and are not caused by chemical imbalances or a true medical condition.
Depression is different. It is a real medical condition typically treated with psychotherapy and/or medicine-assisted treatment. The causes differ from feelings of sadness. In fact, we will cover some causes in this article so you have a good grasp of what it is.
It is important to know that there are different types of depression and each has unique characteristics. For example, postpartum depression is a severe form of depression in some new mothers. That differs from psychotic depression, which pairs with psychosis. There is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), bipolar disorder, and more. There is even one type of depression called substance-abuse depression where a person has depression while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Depression doesn’t just affect our mental health. There are several physical symptoms that may manifest as well.
Examples of physical symptoms:
According to Medical News Today:
Feeling excessively tired is a very common symptom of depression. Some research suggests that over 90% of people with depression experience fatigue.
According to On Health:
Depression can worsen many other medical problems, especially those that cause chronic pain. Certain brain chemicals affect pain and mood, and treating depression tends to improve the symptoms and outcomes of many physical illnesses.
Depression affects the appetite for some people. And there is no uniform measure of who will feel the effects and how they’ll feel them. Some eat more food when depressed and some stop eating or eat less. This leads to weight gain or weight loss as a symptom.
Along with physical symptoms and more, depression wreaks havoc on our emotions. While the most common emotional effects are feelings of sadness or irritability, there are other symptoms too.
There are also extremes in emotions. Some may feel the need to cry all the time, while others feel no emotions at all or experience a feeling of numbness. These are signs too. Those who feel numb may lose all their motivation in life. They may not have an interest in things they previously did, and they just feel empty and at a loss.
Both extremes are indicators of a depression issue. And not all people feel the effects the same way. While one person may feel sorrow, another may feel nothing. That is why it is important not to make blanket assumptions. For example, someone assumes another person is perfectly fine because they don’t seem sad. Instead, they may have an empty feeling inside — indicative of depression. Some even call this smiling depression because those with it will smile on the outside while feeling sad on the inside, and no one knows they’re depressed. These people put on a public persona so others won’t know anything is wrong.
A depressed person may feel the effects on a variety of aspects in their life. For example, they may not want to go to work. Another person may have no interest in sex or withdraw from loved ones. There are also some who have concentration issues, so their decision-making processes suffer. Their career, relationships, and activities all feel the effects of depression.
Imagine someone you love suddenly withdrawing. You notice they no longer seem to care as much about work. Maybe the plans you’ve made for the weekend always get pushed aside. Your loved one is sleeping more and eating less. Every individual differs in the way they react to depression. This is just one example of a combination of effects that may be noticeable to others.
Some may seem as if they do not care about anything. Things they loved to do no longer interest them. Their friends are no longer welcome, and they just seem withdrawn. In adolescents, this is often a characteristic of growing pains, and parents may not realize that their child has depression. It doesn’t mean you’re not paying attention or don’t care. It is often difficult for doctors to make a diagnosis, let along a nonprofessional.
According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance:
Major depressive disorder affects approximately 17.3 million American adults, or about 7.1% of the U.S. population age 18 and older, in a given year. (National Institute of Mental Health “Major Depression”, 2017)
While this disorder spans demographics like age, gender, and ethnicity, risk factors may determine if a person gets clinical depression. Anyone can have it, yet some factors show more prevalence in those who have a depression diagnosis. For example, someone with a family history of depression has an increased chance of the disorder. Genetics seem to play a huge part as a risk factor.
Other risk factors include things like dealing with trauma or a major loss. Emotional, sexual, or physical abuse contributes, and conflicts such as family turmoil.
There are many risks for developing depression, and sometimes the risks are enough to cause a person to have this mental health disorder.
We realize you are not a professional psychologist. Yet, there are ways to spot depression or at least have a good idea that something is wrong.
When you or someone you love has depression, it is difficult, and there is no specific test to determine it. Instead, doctors must rely on a person’s symptoms. They will use medical history, family history, medications, and substance abuse history to gather enough information to make a diagnosis. They will also discuss the daily activities, behaviors, and moods of the person as part of their recommendation.
To make a diagnosis of major depression, a healthcare worker must observe at least five of the criteria in the DSM-5 guidelines:
If you or a loved one has this mental health disorder, it does not mean you’re crazy. This is a real mental health issue that is treatable.
There are two main types of therapy used for those with depression. One is psychotherapy. We also know this as talk therapy, and it relies on different tools and forms to help the person with depression. One type of talk therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy.
Another type of treatment involves certain medications specifically for depression.
If you feel you need help or that a loved one needs help, reach out to us and we will talk to you about a plan for the right path to healing.