We all feel down from time to time. That is a normal part of living and what life throws at you. But when you start to feel permanently exhausted, lose interest in yourself and hobbies or pastimes that you used to enjoy and start feeling as if you don’t even want to get out of bed – you could be suffering from depression and may need to seek professional help. But how do you know if you’re really depressed?
What is depression?
The word ‘depression’ is used far too freely in our society. People sometimes say that they are depressed when actually they are sad, tired, miserable or unhappy about a disappointment or setback that they have suffered. True depression is something different altogether.
Depression isn’t just feeling sad. In fact, it’s much more common for people with depression to say that they feel no emotion. What they may feel is empty, hopeless, helpless and worthless. Once these negative feelings reach a point of interfering with your daily life, then it’s time to seek help.
If you suspect that you might be depressed, take a look at this list of common signs. If you have three or more signs, then you may be what Doctors call ‘clinically depressed’.
- You can’t get to sleep, or stay asleep or you want to sleep all of the time. You may wake up very early in the morning.
- You may ‘hate’ yourself and have feelings of worthlessness. You may judge yourself very harshly over faults that you perceive you have.
- You have no energy. Even the slightest task seems overwhelming.
- You may be suffering from a loss of libido (no sex drive).
- You find it difficult or almost impossible to concentrate – so that tasks you wouldn’t have even thought about now seem insurmountable.
- You feel hopeless and helpless – feeling as if there is no point to even trying.
- You have negative thoughts, which you can’t get rid of, so you’ve given up trying to.
- You have no appetite or you can’t stop eating.
- You are much more irritable, snappy and short-tempered than usual.
- You have thoughts that it’s not worth carrying on, or people would be better off without you or life is not worth living. If this is the case, stop reading this and seek help now.
Worried about someone else?
You may be reading this because you are worried that someone close to you is suffering from depression. You may have recognized that they are displaying some of the symptoms in the list above. However, depression can also manifest itself in varying forms.
Some of the symptoms listed below can apply to a teen simply being a teen. If you’re not sure, you need to consider the following:
- How long have the symptoms been present?
- How severe are the symptoms.
- Is the teen radically different from their ‘usual self’.
- Irritable or angry? – Depressed teenagers rarely appear sad. It is far more common for them to appear irritable, or downright hostile. They may also be easily frustrated by themselves or others and have seemingly uncontrollable outbursts of anger.
- Mysterious aches and pains – Depressed teens often say they have headaches or stomach aches. If no medical cause is found, then this may indicate depression.
- Over sensitivity to criticism – Depressed teens often feel worthless. This means that they find it hard to take criticism. Rejection and failure are huge issues and sadly, this is a particular problem for over-achievers.
- Withdrawing from some people – Depressed adults tend to seek isolation but depressed teens keep up one, or some friendships. They may go out less than they once did, stay away from their parents or start hanging out with a ‘bad’ crowd.
Recognizing depression in older adults
According to the National Institutes of Health, there are 35 million Americans who are aged 65 or older and about 2 million of them suffer from clinical depression. Another 5 million suffer from it in a less severe form.
Getting older is hard. It brings a lot of changes and stresses to a person’s life. Some of the risk factors that can cause an elderly person to become depressed are:
- Recent bereavement – The death of a spouse or partner, siblings, friends and pets.
- Loneliness – This could be caused by being left alone due to the death of a spouse or partner, a smaller circle of friends due to deaths or moving to a new area, loss or reduction in mobility due to physical illness or not being able to drive any more.
- Loss of purpose – due to bereavement, retirement or physical illness which now limits previous abilities and activities.
- Health issues – Illness, disability, pain, decline in cognitive function, changed body image due to age, surgery or illness.
- Medications – Many prescription medications can trigger depression or make an existing one worse.
- Fears – Fear of death or dying, worry over financial or health issues.
Recognizing depression in men
Depression in men is hard to diagnose because of the way our culture views the illness. Sadly, for many, it is still thought of as ‘weakness’ and therefore men often fight hard to cover up any signs that they are not coping. Although they may well feel hopeless and dislike themselves, this aspect of depression is usually very well hidden. What they may mention is constantly feeling tired, having problems sleeping and losing interest in work and/or hobbies. Outward signs may include them being more irritable than usual, angry outbursts, aggression, violence or violent acts such as punching a wall, reckless driving and an increase in smoking or drinking.
It is worth noting here that although twice as many women suffer from depression as men, men – especially older ones – are at a higher risk of suicide.
Recognizing depression in women
It is thought that twice as many women suffer from depression than men because they have strong hormonal influences. This occurs throughout their lives.
- The monthly menstrual cycle may bring premenstrual syndrome (PMS). However, for one in ten women, this may be severe enough to be classed as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Women with PMDD will suffer severe depression, irritability, and other mood swings, with symptoms beginning around 10 to 14 days before their period is due and then improving a few days after it starts.
- Women are at risk from post partum depression after the birth of a baby. This usually develops soon after delivery, but any depression that begins within six months of giving birth may be postpartum depression.
- Then as the hormone levels change again prior to the menopause, it can bring perimenopausal depression.
Women may suffer from any of the symptoms on the list of signs. In addition, they are highly likely to feel high levels of guilt, sleep to excess, overeat and put on weight as a result. They are also prone to seasonal affective disorder, which doesn’t seem to affect men so badly.
When you are depressed, seeking help may feel like a huge undertaking. Try and realise that the helplessness and hopelessness that you are feeling are symptoms of an illness that you are suffering from. Although it feels all too real, it’s not the reality of the situation that you are in. Depression is an illness which can be treated successfully and is not something that you should be ashamed of. It’s also not something that you have to live with so please, get some help and begin to enjoy your life again