From time to time, you may experience sadness or stress that can go away on its own. However, when there is a persistent feeling of hopelessness, emptiness, irritability, or little interest in activities you may have once enjoyed, it may be caused by depression.
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it affects about 7.1 % of the U.S. population, or around 17.3 million American adults. It can cause mild to severe symptoms that affect how we may think, feel, or manage daily activities.
The most common depiction of depression is of a sad and lonely person unable to enjoy social activities. While there are more obvious signs of depression such as negative feelings, constant fatigue, loss of interest in activities, or changes in appetite or weight; depression can come in many forms and is unique to each individual. There are some people who experience high-functioning depression with signs such as frequent crying, pessimism, insomnia, or substance abuse while still going out for their daily activities with a smile on their face. Therefore, it is important to recognize these misconceptions surrounding the illness if you are worried that you or a loved one may be depressed.
Signs of depression:
- Feelings of sadness and hopelessness (no pleasure or joy in life)
- Changes in sleeping habits (sleeping excessively or experiencing insomnia)
- Negative inner dialogue (thoughts that are self-critical and damaging)
- Overeating or loss of appetite (weight fluctuation)
- Fatigue (excessively tired)
- Disinterest in hobbies
- Loss of concentration
- Alcohol or drug use (unhealthy coping mechanisms to help with negative emotions)
- Personality differences (more withdrawn, angry, or irritable)
- Unexplained physical pain such as headaches, body aches, muscle tension, digestive problems, and nausea
- Low sex drive
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is important to contact a doctor or mental health professional as depression is a treatable illness. However if you are looking for more ways to manage your depression on your own, some steps you can take are:
- Reduce stress and develop healthy coping mechanisms such as yoga and deep breathing exercises
- Socialize with others you feel most comfortable around
- Engage in activities you used to enjoy
- Exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet
- Reach out to family and friends for support
When managing depression, some of these steps will take time so it is important to have open communication about what you are most comfortable with while on a journey to recovery.
If you are worried about a loved one who may be experiencing depression, starting a conversation can make a major difference. If you choose to do so, offering a listening ear alongside nonjudgemental advice and assistance, can help them feel supported. Since this can be a difficult topic for many, expressing your genuine concern and encouraging them that you are there to listen can help them feel comfortable in opening up to you. It is important to help them feel at ease and follow their lead, since they may not be ready to talk. If your loved one isn’t ready to open up, here are some actions you can take to help them feel less alone:
- Plan activities they enjoy that you can do together, or join them in exercising or meditation
- Suggest other people they may prefer to talk such as another friend or a confidential helpline
- Encourage them to seek treatment, or at least plant the seed that professional help is readily available when they are ready
- Discuss barriers for them, and where you can help such as taking them to appointments
Depression is a common and serious mental illness. It is not an illness where one description fits all. It includes the feelings of sadness and hopelessness, but can be depicted differently for each individual with signs varying from mild to severe. A person with depression can have a smile on their face (such as those with high-functioning depression) or can lack motivation and slowly pull away from loved ones and interests they enjoy. It comes in many forms, and for those who are struggling is a topic that many people find hard to seek help in.
Depression is not always apparent, and it is important to seek help from a doctor or mental health professional if you or a loved one is experiencing persistent symptoms of depression. Remember that depression is treatable and if you need advice contact one of our therapists here at Pacific CBT for further emotional support.
If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional distress or suicidal thoughts, call 988, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
“People think depression is sadness. That it’s crying and dressing in black. But people are wrong. Depression is the constant feeling of being numb. It’s being numb to emotions, being numb to life. You wake up in the morning just to go back to bed again.”
About the Author: Ashley Carreon currently works as a Behavior Therapist in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and a minor in Psychology from University of California, Davis. Ashley is interested in understanding intersectionality in mental health, and is planning to pursue a Master’s degree.
Need some more information?
Bethany, J., & Leonard, J. (2022, June 30). Recognizing the hidden signs of depression. Medical News Today, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325513
Chiu, A. (2022, February 17). What does ‘high-functioning depression mean? We asked experts. The Washington Post, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/wellness/2022/02/17/high-functioning-depression-meaning-symptoms/
Lindberg, S. (n.d.). What Does Depression Feel Like? Verywell Mind, from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-depression-feels-like-5088793
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (n.d.). Depression. National Institute of Mental Health, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression