Many people with major depressive disorder wait a long time to seek help simply because they don't realize that their symptoms are signs of a treatable mental health condition. Symptoms of depression are often brushed aside as "normal" or attributed to stress or burnout. But it is essential to recognize these symptoms and get treatment because there is hope! Here are ten signs that you may be dealing with depression (and may need to seek help from a doctor, therapist, or other mental health professional).
Change in sleep. Depression often causes significant disruption in sleep. If you are struggling with depression, you may find that you have more trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. You may also find yourself waking up very early in the morning (for example, around 3-4 AM) and unable to get back to sleep. On the flip side, depression can cause some people to sleep more than usual. When depressed, you may find that you don't feel well-rested no matter how much sleep you get.
Feeling more irritable. If you have depression, you will probably find that you have a much shorter fuse. You may lose your temper more easily, get overwhelmed and shut down, or lash out in response to minor inconveniences. You may find yourself taking your frustrations out on the people you love the most, resulting in serious damage to your relationships.
Increased anxiety. We often think of anxiety and depression as two separate issues. But in reality, they are often intertwined, and people who are depressed commonly notice an increase in anxiety. You may start to worry more about things that never use to used to bother you. You may also begin to feel the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as muscle tension, fast heartbeat, headaches, stomachaches, nausea, diarrhea, and even full-blown panic attacks. The anxiety can sometimes get so bad that it causes you to start avoiding things.
Feeling guilty or worthless. People with depression typically have a change in what's called their "self-attitude." Our self-attitude refers to how we see ourselves and what we think about our positive attributes, abilities, and shortcomings. If you are depressed, you are much more likely to see yourself in a negative light. You may find yourself thinking you aren't good enough or that you aren't a worthy friend, sibling, parent, or spouse. You'll feel like nothing you do is good enough, and you may feel guilty for things that aren't your fault (including your depressive symptoms!).
Change in appetite. Depression often causes changes in appetite, which can be significant enough to cause changes in your weight. If you are depressed, you may lose your appetite and find that you have to force yourself to eat. In some people, this can result in significant weight loss. It's also possible that your appetite may increase, and you may find yourself gaining weight.
Low motivation. When you are depressed, you may find it hard to get yourself motivated to do much of anything, even seemingly simple tasks like brushing your teeth or getting dressed for the day. You may start feeling like everything is a chore or like you have to work hard to get yourself pepped up to do things that were once easy for you.
Difficulty enjoying things. If you are struggling with depression, you will likely have trouble enjoying much of anything. Even things you used to really love, like your hobbies or spending time with others, can start to feel like more of a chore than a pleasure.
Decreased energy. If you are depressed, you may find that your energy is low. Even if you get a good night's sleep, you might find yourself feeling physically and mentally exhausted. You'll likely limit your activities and isolate yourself because you feel like you don't have enough energy for anything more than what is absolutely necessary.
Trouble concentrating. Difficulty with focus and concentration are common with depression and can make it difficult to function at work or school. You may find your performance at work or school even starts to decline. It can even get to the point where your concentration is so bad that you have difficulty reading, watching TV, or even having a conversation with someone. Because it's so hard to focus, you may find that your memory seems to be much worse than usual as well.
Thoughts of death or suicide. Finding yourself daydreaming about death, wishing you wouldn't wake up in the morning, or even thinking about or planning suicide are important warning signs. While these thoughts may not always be due to depression, they are a common symptom of depression and are always signs that you need to seek professional help.
If this sounds familiar or you need help finding mental healthcare, visit the Resources section of this site for more information and helpful links.