Signs of Depression that can Look Like Something Else
Most people do not realize that depression’s symptoms aren’t as simple as “feeling sad.”
Depression affects one out of ten Americans. That’s a huge number of people when you consider America’s population. It’s even worse when you consider the world’s population. Having a bad day is different from suffering from depression. Unfortunately, many people cannot spot the difference. Sometimes you might think the person next to you is just going through a bad phase when he is, in fact, showing depression signs. These signs can persist for up to two weeks and even more depending on the individual case. The worst part is these symptoms do not subside without proper treatment. Far too often, depression goes unrecognized, and those affected by it are forced to suffer in silence.
Livestrong.com helps to identify the symptoms of depression in its “8 Warning Signs of Depression You Shouldn’t Ignore” article:
8 Subtle Signs of Depression, Often Masked as Something Else
1. Anger and Irritability
Often, when depressed, people report feeling agitated, restless or even violent, explains psychiatrist Robert London, M.D., who developed the short-term psychotherapy unit at the NYU Langone Medical Center. But anger is not only a symptom of depression, it’s also a possible contributor to depression. According to one Advances in Psychiatric Treatment editorial, when anger is left unaddressed it can lead to passive-aggressive behavior, which can be self-destructive and contribute to feelings of depression.
We all have an inner critic. For people who are depressed, this critical inner voice can have a powerful and destructive influence on their state of mind. It may be feeding them a distorted commentary on their lives,” says Jaime W. Vinick, M.C., LPC, NCC, chief clinical officer at Sierra Tucson psychiatric facility. What’s more, self-criticism may also predict depression. In a 2009 Comprehensive Psychiatry study of 107 adults, those who were most self-critical were also more likely to be depressed four years later.
“One of the worst symptoms of depression is a feeling of hopelessness,” says counselor Jaime W. Vinick. Feelings of hopelessness can discourage people from seeking treatment for their depression. Those suffering from extreme hopelessness may not believe they will or can ever feel better, which explains why some attempt suicide, believing it to be their only way out. What’s more, some experts believe hopelessness to contribute to the development of depression, says clinical psychologist Nick Forand, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Ohio State University.
4. Loss of Interest
Losing interest in three-hour meetings and work deadlines is one thing, but with depression, people can lose interest in things they typically enjoy, such as movies, sports and time spent with friends, says psychologist Moe Gelbart, Ph.D. “Loss of interest in pleasurable activities is a common component of depression and is referred to as anhedonia.” This loss of interest may be due to changes in the brain’s levels of reward-regulating hormones and neurotransmitters, according to psychiatrist Robert London, M.D. Unfortunately, a loss of interest can exacerbate feelings of isolation, leading to further depression, Gelbart says. It’s a self-destructive cycle that can be difficult for people suffering with depression to break.
5. Significant Weight Changes
Depression can do a number on a scale. When depressed, many people lose interest in eating because they no longer enjoy food. On the other hand, they may emotionally eat in a conscious or unconscious attempt to improve their mood. In fact, according to a 2003 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating foods rich in carbohydrates can temporarily promote the synthesis of the feel-good chemical serotonin in the brain. What’s more, depression-induced inactivity can also contribute to weight gain.
6. Changes in Sleep Habits
According to one 2008 review published in the Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, about three-quarters of the people with depression suffer from insomnia. “Constant fears, anxiety and ruminating will lead to difficulties with staying or falling asleep,” explains psychologist Moe Gelbart, Ph.D. Many people, unfortunately, compensate for poor sleep by hitting the snooze button, taking naps or guzzling coffee in the afternoon or evening, which can make falling asleep at night even more difficult. And, like many symptoms of depression, poor sleep only makes depression worse.
Depression can seriously take it out of you. “Depressed peoples’ bodies act as though they are under constant stress, which can lead to inflammation, which in turn can contribute to feelings of fatigue,” says clinical psychologist Nick Forand, Ph.D. Even if they don’t realize they are depressed, most people suffering from depression will complain of feeling tired, sluggish and physically drained, says psychiatrist Robert London, M.D. However, since these same people often experience sleep disturbances, the symptoms can be easy to explain away.
8. Unexplained Aches and Pains
Often, when depressed individuals do seek medical attention, their complaint isn’t depression at all. It’s aches and pains, such as stomach troubles and joint and back pain, says counselor Jaime W. Vinick. She explains that the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine influence not only mood, but also biological and neurological processes that can result in pain.
Solution: Pay Attention and Pay It Forward!
If a person close to you is expressing any of these depression signs, it is not only your responsibility, but also your duty to help. Family members and close friends are the people who are best positioned to help depression patients. You have to step up and remedy the situation if you really care about the person. “10 Ways to Help Someone Who’s Depressed” by National Institute of Mental Health is a helpful guide on the subject.
8 Warning Signs of Depression You Shouldn’t Ignore, livestrong.com
10 Ways to Help Someone Who’s Depressed, National Institute of Mental Health
BOOKS & DVDs:
Happy Video, by Dalai Lama, free for Amazon Prime
The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time, Alex Korb PhD