I’m more than positive anyone reading this knows what depression is. At least the textbook version of depression anyway. The DSM 5 recognizes two major forms of depression: Major Depressive Disorder and Persistent Depressive Disorder. The main difference between the two is, you guessed it, time. With Persistent Depressive Disorder the individual reports a depressed mood more days than not for a period of at least two years. It can be chronic and less severe than the Major Depressive Disorder in which the individual reports a depressed mood for the majority of the day nearly everyday. Can you imagine being in a depressed mood for almost 2 years? Trying to function with this cloud over you for that long? It’s not that hard to imagine considering people, a surprising number of people at that, do it daily. Let’s take a closer look at what depression can look like.
Loss of Pleasure/Joy
The more obvious symptoms of depression include feeling “low” or empty and being sad majority of the time. Now this is more commonly seen in adults. When dealing with children this depressed mood often takes the form of agitation or irritation sometimes overt anger. With this “low” mood comes a decreased pleasure or interest in activities that were once enjoyable. This can manifest in the form of that friend who used to come out after work for drinks but hasn’t been lately or the stay at home mom who used to enjoy taking her children to the park but is no longer seen on that park bench watching her children play. It’s important to pay attention to those around us and notice when someone is acting out of the norm or when someone disappears entirely from social functions they once found enjoyable. It could be a loved one who doesn’t feel like going out on Saturday or is too tired to attend that play or go to the movies. Whatever it may be for that person. Depression is isolating in that it takes more effort than that person may possess to do what was so effortlessly done before.
The person under the cloud of depression can not muster the strength to do what was once fun. That cloud is heavy and peering through it nearly impossible, making ordinary and mundane daily activities nearly impossible not to mention activities that were previously enjoyable. The joy is not there so the motivation to do them is not there either.
Changes in Appetite: Weight Loss or Gain
This symptom may not surprise anyone. The picture I get in my mind when I think of someone clinically depressed is: the female (because mostly women are depressed) wrapped in a thick blanket on the couch, watching television like a zombie in her pajamas scarfing down a tub of rocky road ice cream from the container, wrappers of candy, discarded fast food wrappers, and other trash around her as she refuses to leave the safety of her couch haven. That may or may not be what your mind conjures up but I associate depression with overeating and weight gain. Relating this back to the previous symptom: to fill the void or stuff the emptiness you feel with food. This is seen through rapid weight gain. The craving of comfort food when you feel bad is a normal reaction but is often taken overboard with chronic and/or persistent depression. The depressed person has no sense of normal. To them feeling this way is their normal so eating that entire tub of rocky road while binge watching Netflix is normal and it may make them feel better, at least for a few minutes anyway. So again pay attention to anyone around you who has not only disappeared from social functions but has gained weight.
The flip side to this is the depression zapping your appetite entirely which can lead to rapid and unexpected weight loss. While most women, wish this weight loss plan to occur naturally, this kind of weight loss is unhealthy and is best characterized by the person skipping meals and wearing obviously too baggy clothes. The depressed person is not going to buy new clothing to better fit their new slim physique due to how sudden it occurred and going back the lack of desire to go shopping. Keep your eyes peeled for anyone who has suddenly lost weight outside of trying a new diet or getting that gym membership. Skipping meals due to loss of appetite is a great way to lose weight as well as depriving your body of much needed nutrition.
This next symptom is rather obvious but can often be surprising in its manifestation. This can take the form of trouble falling to sleep or staying asleep which leads to feelings of fatigue or not rested enough. Its common and normal to go through periods where you feel like you may not be getting enough sleep depending on the course of your daily life. But persistent sleep issues paired with some of the other symptoms listed above may be a major indicator of depression. Also paired with this is feelings of fatigue, possibly related to trouble sleeping or in addition to sleep issues. Fatigue makes it extremely difficult to function in normal daily activities and may take the form of feeling tired all the time or daytime sleepiness.
It’s important to consult your physician if these symptoms persist for longer than a few months despite major lifestyle changes to correct for it such as: cutting down percentage and time consumption of caffeine, adding in exercise, and decreasing screen time viewing before bed.
Feeling of Worthlessness or Guilt
Feeling overwhelmed with guilt for things that are really not your fault is another symptom of depression. Constantly apologizing for things you shouldn’t. Someone suffering under the yoke of depression may be preoccupied with perceived past or present failings or shortcomings so much so that they may become delusional about the amount of guilt they feel. They obsess over these perceived failings to the point they convince themselves that it was in fact their fault to the contrary of logical thinking. With this often comes exaggerated sense of personal responsibility on what others would determine are trivial matters and the instance of self blame. It is their fault this did not go right and there is nothing they can do to make it right. This thought can perpetuate the sense of hopelessness that accompanies depression and can lead the depressed individual into a deeper, darker well of emotional self doubt and even self loathing.
Another common symptom of depression is the inability to make even the most common and mundane decisions. This can be anything from whether to take sugar in your coffee or what to have for dinner to whether to stay at this job or pursue something different. It’s important to remember not to make any rash, major life decisions while in the throes of depression. The depressed person is not thinking clearly or even able to use their normally wise mind to make the best decision for their life. Now the minor decisions that need to be made everyday should be easier but aren’t. Even the minute decisions of daily life can be difficult for someone suffering from depression. Depression slows your cognitive processes and even clouds your judgement. If you do believe you suffer from depression try to refrain from making any major decisions without first weighing the options.
With depression may come increase in thinking about death or attempting suicide. Often when the depressed person makes the decision to do something, such as end their own life, they often get a renewed burst of energy which provides the necessary energy to follow through with their suicidal ideation. If you notice someone who is usually very fatigued suddenly get a renewed burst of energy be wary as they may have come to the decision to end their own life.
While these are not all of the symptoms of depression, not by a long shot, and every individual is different in their manifestation of depression I do hope this has given you a little insight into a life lived with depression. Each person with depression may manifest these symptoms differently and this is by no means an exhaustive list of end all be all symptoms. If you or someone you know suffers from depression please have the courage to get help. There are professionals out there willing to guide you back into the light.