“The anguish, fear, and sorrow never ceased. I was in terrible pain without knowing where the pain was coming from. And I had no desire whatsoever to talk about it.”
“I couldn’t sleep and I was highly irritable. It seemed like a cloud of unending sadness hung over my head all the time.”
“I woke up every morning wondering, ‘Is this the day I’ll die?’”
Not every person with depression experiences feelings as strong as those mentioned in these examples. Depression has a wide range – from severe major depression to more mild and moderate but persistent depressive disorders.
The fact is that depression can be very unpredictable. That’s why, even if you have depression, it may not be easy for you to recognize it. After all, everyone feels sad, everyone experiences distress… at times.
However, there is a difference between a few gloomy days and clinical depression. But how can you identify those differences?
Recognizing Your Depression
Often depression is brought on by obvious triggers – death of a loved one, loss of job, decline in health, or separation and divorce. But it can also engulf and interrupt your day-to-day life suddenly, without warning and without apparent reason. If you feel dejected and listless most of the time – triggered by a traumatic incident or not – it’s time to pay attention and evaluate yourself.
Symptoms of Depression:
You may not exhibit all of the following symptoms.
- Bleak outlook – feelings of persistent sadness; anxiety, emptiness, hopelessness, or pessimism; thoughts of suicide
- Self-loathing – feelings of guilt; worthlessness, self-criticism, or helplessness
- Low tolerance – short temper, irritability, annoyance, anger; feeling agitated, restless, and even violent
- Reckless behavior – reckless driving, dangerous sports; substance abuse, compulsive gambling
- Loss of interest – no longer care for previously enjoyed hobbies and activities; inability to feel joy and pleasure
- Loss of focus – trouble concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things
- Feeling drained – decreased energy, sluggishness, fatigue; body feels heavy, slowed down, easily exhausted
- Sleep difficulties – insomnia (inability to sleep), oversleeping, or waking early in the morning
- Eating problems – low appetite or overeating, weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5 percent of body weight in one month)
- Aches and pains – headaches, muscle aches, back pains, digestive problems (that can’t be diagnosed otherwise or respond to treatment)
Did you recognize several of these depression symptoms in yourself?
What to Do Next
First, no matter how hopeless and overwhelmed you may feel, no matter how tough it is to function and enjoy life, be assured that you can get better. The important part is to take action.
Sadly, many people who experience depression never seek nor receive psychological help and treatment. They miss out on regaining joy and pleasure in their lives. – Don’t let that be you!
Take the most important step and tell your doctor about your symptoms. They can do some basic laboratory tests to rule out a medical condition, such as an underactive thyroid gland, as the cause of your depression. Then request a referral to a knowledgeable and compassionate psychologist for a comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis.
A psychologist will be able to assess what type of depression you have – major depression, bipolar disorder, dysthymia, postpartum depression, or seasonal affective disorder. Then, they can discuss with you what treatment approach will be best – psychotherapy, medication or something else.
Don’t panic! You will not have to take antidepressants for all forms of depression. For mild to moderate forms, psychotherapy has proven to be a more effective treatment long-term than medication. Make sure, though, that you discuss all your worries with your health care provider.
Most of all, be patient, follow the instructions of your psychologist, and complete the full treatment.