Author: Valerie Barela, MA, LPC, LCDC

How to Recognize Signs of Depression

If you have ever felt like you truly understand Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, or have been told to stop being a “downer”, then you may be familiar with seeing life through a perspective of sadness.

It is a perspective that others will turn a blind eye to, but which we can’t help but see.

A perspective that makes us feel like our arms and legs are made of lead, making it feel impossible to function, even when we want to.

A perspective of ourselves that makes us feel unworthy, helpless, and hopeless.

 

This is likely not just “being down” or experiencing sadness. This is depression.

 

It might be hard to understand the difference between feeling sad a lot and experiencing depression.

 

There are a lot of tough things in life that can bring us down. Some of us might not recognize having depression because we don’t want to, because, well… it’s depressing. Some of us might not recognize having depression because when we’ve actually opened up about how we’ve been feeling, we’re told to “get over it” or “it’s all in your head” by our friends or family members. For those of you out there who need to hear it, it is not all in your head and there’s simply no “getting over” anything that feels as all-encompassing as depression.

 

Depression is a clinical mental health diagnosis (officially it is called Major Depressive Disorder), meaning it needs to be diagnosed by medical or mental health professionals.

Folks all across the world (in the hundreds of millions) experience depression in their lifetimes. Women tend to experience it more than men (6% and 4%, respectively), but it also becomes more common the older we get (about 5.7% of older adults, compared to 4.4% of children experience depression).

Depression may occur as a result of multiple, stressful (or outright painful) life events, but it can also occur simply because our DNA says so. (Insert Eeyore sigh here). Other indicators that can make us vulnerable to depression: medical conditions, other mental health conditions, military service, and/or having survived domestic violence.

 

That said, depression is NOT: grief, disappointment, nor feeling “bummed” or “down”.

Here’s why: symptoms include more than just feeling sad and are time sensitive. Below are indicators of Major Depressive Disorder:

  • Feeling sad or having depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite (such as, weight loss or gain unrelated to deliberate diet changes)
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (as in, inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing) or slowed movements or speech; these actions must be severe enough to be observable by others
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Symptoms must last at least two weeks and must represent a change in your previous level of functioning

 

Diagnoses can get really specific, so tracking how long symptoms have lasted, whether they come and go, how severe symptoms have been, as well as how symptoms have interfered with day to day life, can be essential in getting a correct diagnosis.

In case it’s not complicated enough, please keep in mind, there are different types of depression:

  • Persistent Depressive Disorder – the one where it seems like the depression never goes away
  • Depressive Psychosis – the one where a person can be out of touch with reality (aka, experiencing delusions and/or hallucinations)
  • Perinatal Depression – the one where depression occurs either during or after pregnancy (prenatal depression and postpartum depression, respectively)
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder– the one that is based on a person’s menstruation cycle.

Please note: this list does not include ALL the different kinds of depression, but does represent some of the most common forms.

 

If you are recognizing these symptoms in your personal experience, we encourage you to see a medical doctor first, just in case there might be something medical happening that can explain the symptoms.

 

If a medical doctor lets you know there’s nothing to physically indicate a reason for experiencing depressive symptoms, we encourage you to seek out mental health professionals who can help. Either mental health counseling or psychotropic medication, or a combination of both, is usually recommended as treatment for depression. (If this gets your attention, you might want to check out the Heart to Heart video our CEP team made for Mental Health Awareness month, where we talk about different types of mental health treatment). 

 

At CEP, we are dedicated to being a support to people wanting to learn if they are experiencing depression as well as what to do about their symptoms. Our team recognizes that people are more dynamic than characters in a franchise, like Eeyore, and we are here to help with any signs or symptoms of depression. If you’d like more information about how we can help, please contact (915) 209-1234 for more information.

 

References

 

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

 

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression

 

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression

 

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression

How to Recognize Signs of Depression

If you have ever felt like you truly understand Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, or have been told to stop being a “downer”, …

Parents of Teens or Young Adults Coping with A Substance Use Disorder

We have all heard or read about the horror stories being shared by news outlets, titles such as “Rises in Teen Drug Abuse” …

Trust: The Most Important Ingredient in Any Relationship

Dear Reader, What do we do when we have experienced a rupture in a relationship that feels beyond repair?   What do we do …