Depression is a serious illness, affecting nearly 10% of the US population over the age 18 in any given year. Although the symptoms of depression are sometimes mistaken for a simple “case of the blues”, the truth is that depression is a serious illness that may not go away without medical attention. Any individual experiencing depression symptoms that persist for any extended period of time should seek consult with a qualified medical professional to determine the best course of treatment for this serious but very treatable mood disorder. The following is a list of the 15 most common symptoms reported by individuals suffering from depression. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, please consider getting help as soon as possible.
Insomnia or Excessive Sleepiness
People suffering from depression often experience some disturbance in their sleep patterns as their natural rhythm gets disrupted. These disturbances can manifest themselves as difficulty waking up, or difficulty falling asleep, or both. If you find yourself feeling exhausted after a full night’s sleep, or laying in bed tossing and turning with insomnia, it might be a sign of depression.
Difficulty Concentrating or “Brain Fog”
A change in cognitive ability is often one of the first clues depression sufferers have that something more serious than a “case of the blues” is going on. Depression can cloud your thinking and make routine mental tasks seem more difficult than they are. If it suddenly seems like you “aren’t as smart as you used to be”, depression may be to blame.
Feelings of Hopelessness, or Emptiness
Contrary to popular belief, depression doesn’t always feel like “sadness” to people who are afflicted with it. Instead, it can cause a general feeling of emptiness, and a general lack of emotion. If you find yourself unable to enjoy the things that usually make you happy, and you are having a hard time getting excited about anything in the future, there’s a good chance you are experiencing one of the most common symptoms associated with depression.
Negative thinking is best illustrated by asking the question “is the glass half full, or is it half empty?” Depressed individuals may be more likely to focus on the downside of ideas, and even view neutral events in a negative light. If you are noticing that most of the “glasses” you come across look “half-empty” to you, it might be due to underlying depression.
Changes In Appetite
The appetite changes frequently associated with depression can be one of the clearest indications that a mood disorder is present. People suffering from depression may find themselves with no appetite to speak of, and no interest in eating at all, or they may be driven to overeat, consuming excess amounts of food while still remaining hungry. If you have noticed any sudden changes in your appetite level, you might need to consider depression as a possible cause.
Irritability and Anger
A common theory on the origin of depression describes it as “anger turned inward”, and while the “inward anger theory” may explain the root cause of depression, there’s no doubt that depression sufferers are more likely to find themselves in irritable states, and to experience feelings of anger over seemingly insignificant events. If you are finding yourself increasingly annoyed by trivial things, or notice that you are more likely to “boil over “ with anger in situations that you used to be able to walk away from, depression may be pushing your hot buttons.
Reckless Behavior/Unnecessary Risk Taking
Sometimes a depressed person will seem to stop caring about their personal safety altogether. This lack of concern can manifest itself in small ways, such as a sudden decision to stop wearing a seat belt, or in larger ways that may be even more dangerous. Some depressed men have been known to intentionally pick fights that they cannot win, subjecting themselves to significant risk, while others have admitted to driving in an intentionally reckless manner. Reckless behavior and risk taking are some of the most dangerous depression symptoms, and anyone who is exhibiting these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.
Self-medication is one of the classic signs of depression. Individuals who are suffering from undiagnosed depression may attempt to alleviate their symptoms by using drugs or alcohol. This self medication doesn’t provide a long-term solution to the underlying problem, and can potentially lead to addiction and habituation. The negative consequences of self-medication for depression are significant, and anyone who is displaying this depression symptoms should seek a consultation with a medical professional as soon as possible.
Thoughts of Self Harm or Suicide
Although depression does not always lead to suicide, in many cases it will cause sufferers to experience an increase in thoughts of self harm or suicide. This preoccupation with suicide and self-harm may increase in intensity if the depression causing it is not treated properly. If you or anyone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, it must be treated as medical emergency. Depression is a treatable illness, suicide is not.
Reduced Libido (Sex Drive)
One of the most common complaints among both male and female sufferers of depression is a loss of interest in sex. Libido is closely tied to self-esteem, and a depressed person is likely to have a diminished sense of self-worth, and as a consequence, a lowered or absent sex drive. If you’ve noticed that lately you just don’t have the same interest in sex that you once did, or find yourself feeling turned off completely by the thought of sex, it’s possible that your lowered libido is the result of depression.
Many people afflicted with depression struggle with a constant feeling of agitation or restlessness, never feeling quite comfortable in any situation, even in their own home. A persistent feeling of general discomfort or dissatisfaction with your surroundings could be a possible sign that you are suffering from depression.
Fatigue or Lack of Energy
Individuals suffering from depression often complain of being unnaturally fatigued, regardless of how much rest they are getting. The fatigue that comes with depression can be a result of sleep disturbances or changes in appetite, but it may also appear on it’s own. If your days suddenly seem longer than ever before, and you just don’t have the energy to get through them, depression might be draining your power reserves.
Aches and Pains
The mind and body are connected in many ways, and sometimes we overlook how easily one can influence the other. A very common symptoms among depression patients is the sudden appearance of random aches, pains, and physical discomfort. These physical pains can be minor or major, and can include aching joints, headaches, muscle pain and more. If you’ve been suffering from moderate physical pain with no apparent cause, it’s possible that your body is trying to tell you that you are depressed.
Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand, and many researchers think that depression and anxiety may be caused by the same chemical imbalances in the brain. The anxiety associated with depression can take a variety of forms, from mildly invasive worrying to debilitating panic attacks. Anxiety can become more severe if left untreated, so if you think your anxiety might be depression-related, you should consult with your doctor as soon as possible.
Emotional Outbursts or Crying Spells
It’s important to remember that depression is classified as a “mood disorder”, and that means that it is capable of producing a number of emotional disturbances. Some people with depression report a loss of control over their emotions. They may find themselves becoming overly emotional at inappropriate times, such as crying during funny TV commercials or laughing at someone who is hurt. People who are suffering from depression may also be prone to crying spells, seemingly precipitated by nothing at all. If you’ve been feeling “emotionally unstable” or you find your self being emotionally demonstrative at inopportune times, depression might be the reason why.
Symptoms of Depression in Women
In the United States, women account for almost 70% of all depression cases treated in any given year. While the depression diagnoses are split evenly between the sexes before the onset of puberty, post-pubescent women have a greater likelihood of experiencing depression at some point in their lives than men. The reasons for this are not clear, but there is research that suggests that a women’s changing hormone levels may be to blame for an elevated risk of depression and other mood disorders. These hormonal changes are greatest during puberty, pregnancy, childbirth, the period following childbirth and menopause. In addition, the fluctuating hormone’s of a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle may also be a contributing factor. While the symptoms of depression in women are sometimes minimized as “female moodiness” or “hormonal issues”, it’s important to recognize that depression is a serious illness and it needs to be treated as such.
Common Depression Risk Factors For Women
- a family history of depression or anxiety
- a personal history of emotional disturbances during puberty
- the loss of a parent or guardian before the age of 10
- the absence of a strong familial or social support structure
- psychological stresses related to family life, career, or relationships
- a history of emotional or sexual abuse
- the use of mood altering substances such as drugs and alcohol
- some prescription medications
Symptoms Of Depression In Men
Each year, more than 6 million men are diagnosed with depression in the United States. Unfortunately, that number is likely only a fraction of the true number of men suffering from depression . For men, the idea that depression is primarily a “women’s illness”, can keep them from seeking medical treatment for fear of appearing less than masculine. The truth is, that the reason the majority of depression diagnoses each year are given to women, is simply because most men are unwilling to seek treatment for their depression, causing it to remain undocumented. The fact about depression is that it is an equal-opportunity illness, and men are just as likely to suffer from it as women.
One of the major differences between depressed men and depressed women is the way in which depression symptoms will manifest themselves in each sex. While the symptoms of depression in men are almost identical to those experienced by women, men tend to express them in a very different way. While women tend to internalize feelings of sadness and frustration, when men find find themselves experiencing these depression symptoms they are likely to express them outwardly as irritability, hostility or anger.
Symptoms Of Depression in Teens
Many times, depression in teenagers goes unreported and undaignosed because it can be difficult to tell the difference between the mood swings that are a normal part of adolescance and the more serious symptoms of clinical depression. As any parent will tell you, teenagers aren’t always the most communicative, so it can be difficult to gauge their inner feelings, in order to determine if something more serious than a “case of the blues” is behind their dark moods.
Studies show that as many as one teenager in eight may suffer from depression, and many cases are undiagnosed. Stress is frequently mentioned as a contributing factor in teenage depression, with good reason. Many teenagers today are under tremendous amounts of pressure to succeed academically, athletically, and socially. These stresses can be complicated by anxiety regarding sexual development and orientation, as well as issues within the home. Depressed teens may sleep even more than normal, and display a loss of appetite. They may suddenly develop a sense of apathy towards things that usually excite them like sports, or other extracurricular activities. Some depressed teens, boys especially, may begin acting out and exhibiting antisocial behaviors such as shoplifting, or vandalism. If you suspect depression may be to blame for your teen’s behavior you should arrange for a visit with your family doctor as soon as possible.