It is estimated that roughly 350 million people worldwide are affected by depression, according to the World Health Organization. And, this condition is more than just “feeling down.” Depression is a serious mental illness that can involve a variety of symptoms, including intense sadness, feelings of guilt, irritability, hopelessness and emptiness, just to name a few.
Much like the source of depression, symptoms can vary from one person to the next. Usually, though, feelings of sadness, loneliness, or emptiness are the first signs. Symptoms can also be physical and can worsen if not treated.
Furthermore, there are many psychological disorders that display symptoms of depression, including bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). To learn more about the symptoms of depression and treatment options, read on.
Why Does Depression Happen?
People will experience depression for any number of reasons, from the tragic loss of a loved one to changing hormones after giving birth to a child. Depression can interfere in all aspect’s of someone’s life, from jobs to relationships to day-to-day living. Mental health professionals can help uncover the root of a person’s depression, as well as provide tools to reduce symptoms, which is why treatment is so vital.
What are the symptoms of depression?
Each person may experience different symptoms of depression or have different reasons for developing and experiencing depression. The severity and duration can also vary from a few days to several years. Significant life changes, such as the loss of a job or the death of a loved one, can onset symptoms of depression.
Most common among symptoms of depression is feeling extreme sadness or hopelessness for a long period of time. There are, however, many other symptoms that are important to be aware of when it comes to depression, which we will cover in the upcoming slides.
Emotional and Physical Symptoms
These previously mentioned symptoms may be accompanied by any of the following emotional or physical symptoms:
- Extreme fatigue
- Inability to concentrate
- Loss of interest in people and activities
- Sleeping too much
- Thoughts of suicide or death
- Weight loss or weight gain
We will cover each of these symptoms of depression in more depth in the following slides.
Anger is a common symptom of depression, particularly for people with bipolar disorder. It is a common symptom during the manic phase of bipolar disorder, but it can also be felt for people with other mental health disorders. The difference between normal anger and anger related to depression is the amount of time you experience it. If you notice you have felt anger for a long period of time, it may be a sign of depression.
Anger can display itself through aggression, fighting or yelling. It can also negatively affect relationships at work, home and school and make anxiety worse.
Anxiety and depression are typically intertwined, and one usually impacts the severity or onset of the other. Anxiety can feel like a racing heart, chronic stress or constant fear and usually leads to many other symptoms. Anxiety can also be felt in your body, such as feeling nauseous, exhausted or shaking, which can all make depression feel even more unbearable than it already is.
Common Anxiety Disorders
If you have severe anxiety, it may be a sign that you have an anxiety disorder. Common anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Depression is typically a symptom of anxiety disorders as well. Anxiety that lasts more than a few weeks is usually a symptom of a serious health problem, which can even lead to fatigue.
Fatigue is when you feel extremely tired most of the time, and you may also feel unmotivated to take care of your day-to-day responsibilities. Fatigue is a common symptom of depression and can interfere with your sleep patterns as well as your desire to stay active. Common fatigue symptoms include:
- Sore muscles or body
- Lack of motivation
In severe cases, fatigue can prevent you from going to work or school. You may feel ill or develop frequent headaches or soreness throughout your body, which can make it extremely difficult for you to stay focused and on-task.
Inability to Concentrate
Just like fatigue, feeling distracted can take over your life. The inability to concentrate on important tasks is another common sign of depression. When depression is severe, it can take over your body and your mind, which can impact how well you stay focused. Feeling distracted can make meeting deadlines or finishing projects feel impossible, which often adds to the already-present anxiety.
Concentration & Sleep
Furthermore, if you struggle to get quality sleep at night, you may notice your concentration levels decreasing at work or school, which can also make depression worse. Sleep loss can have adverse effects on all aspects of your life, and it can leave you feeling tired and irritable, which we’ll cover in the upcoming slide.
Everyone gets irritable every once in a while, but it can also be a symptom of depression, particularly if it is consistent or severe. Irritability is also a common symptom in anxiety disorders and can cause other problems, like chronic stress. Some symptoms of irritability may include:
If you notice you have been more irritable than usual, you may be exhibiting signs of depression. Excessive irritability can also make it difficult to maintain healthy, stable relationships with people, which is another symptom of depression.
Loss of Interest in People & Activities
Maintaining healthy relationships when you are depressed can be difficult. Feeling isolated or alone is another common symptom of depression, and you may start to realize you’ve lost interest in spending time with people. If you also have lost interest in doing the things you used to love, you may be depressed. It may be time to seek professional help if you have these symptoms:
- Little to no desire to partake in old hobbies or activities
- Low self-esteem
Depression affects all aspects of someone’s life, including relationships and favorite hobbies. Losing touch with the important people in your life can keep you up at night, which is another serious symptom of depression.
Feeling restless, especially at night, can be a symptom of depression. Whether it’s racing thoughts or physical fatigue, there are many reasons you may be feeling restless. If not treated, restlessness can liken to common sleep problems, like insomnia, and can leave you feeling even more tired and worn down than before. Common symptoms of restless include:
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Tossing and turning at night
- Nighttime anxiety
Believe it or not, sleep patterns can tell a lot about whether or not a person is depressed. Some people may experience the inability to get the sleep they need each night, while others may notice they have been sleeping more than usual, which leads us to the next symptom of depression…
Sleeping too Much
Just like sleeping too little, or, feeling consistently restless, oversleeping is another common symptom of depression. It can also relate to losing interest in relationships or hobbies. You may feel the urge to stay in bed all day instead of getting up and going to work or school. Activities or relationships you once enjoyed waking up for may start to lose impact on your life.
In other cases, you may sleep more than you used to or more than the average person your age sleeps. If your sleep patterns have changed significantly or if you find yourself repetitively struggling to get quality sleep, you may have depression or a sleep disorder. Either way, excessive sleeping is not healthy and can even lead to insomnia, which we’ll cover in the next slide.
Insomnia is a serious sleep disorder that is characterized by having a difficult time falling or staying asleep at night. People with insomnia are usually extremely tired during the day but then find it hard to get to sleep at night. Other symptoms may include:
- Waking up throughout the night
- Rarely getting enough sleep
With depression, insomnia can be affected by a low mood. Even more, a person with insomnia may develop depression and vice versa for a person with depression. If depression is severe, it can lead a person to have thoughts of suicide, which we’ll discuss in our last symptom slide.
Thoughts of Suicide
Having suicidal thoughts, otherwise known as suicidal ideation, is a serious and severe symptom of depression. If you or someone you know has felt or expressed thoughts of suicide, it is critical that you seek help immediately. You can call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. Common signs that someone is thinking about suicide include, but are not limited to:
- Expressing a plan or method
- Access to a weapon
- Talking or joking about suicide or death
- Feeling hopeless
- Saying goodbye to people and/or giving away belongings
- Substance abuse
- Changes in moods
Seeking Help is Critical.
If you have suicidal thoughts, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional, like a counselor, psychologist or therapist. You should also reach out to a trusted friend or loved one for support.
Symptoms of depressions can range in severity but should be taken seriously and followed by seeking professional help. If you have felt any combination of these symptoms for more than two weeks, you may have depression. If you are unsure how to properly seek treatment, read on.
Potential Treatment Options
Regardless of the cause of depression, it is essential to seek appropriate care. This way, you can keep your life on track and better prevent additional—and more severe—side effects from developing. If you even think there is a slight possibility you may be depressed, go ahead and seek help.
The first step should be to speak with someone, like a doctor or counselor, about your symptoms. Health professionals can lead patients in the right direction when it comes to depression treatment. Generally, the next step will be to speak in greater detail about symptoms with a psychiatrist and/or psychologist…
What’s the Difference Between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?
While a psychologist often focuses more on mental and emotional concerns, a psychiatrist is a medically trained doctor who can prescribe medication and monitor a patient’s drug plan. Often times a psychiatrist can also provide counseling. It is up to you whether you seek help from a psychologist, psychiatrist or counselor. To make your decision easier, you can:
- Check to see which conditions each provider treats
- Decide with your doctor if you think medication would help
- Develop a list of what you want out of treatment
Are there other treatment options?
Aside from counseling, there are many other ways you can treat symptoms of depression. Not all healing occurs inside a counseling room, but it is still important to seek counseling. Most health professionals will instruct their clients to take care of themselves in other ways, such as…
Natural Treatment Options
Before beginning prescription medications, a professional might recommend a course of natural treatments. These options might include:
- Eating well and staying hydrated
- Reducing or eliminating caffeine intake
Some people find that these actions help alleviate their symptoms. Others use both medications and these self-care practices to better manage their symptoms. For people who need a little extra boost, prescription medications might be in order…
If lifestyle changes don’t help, prescription medications might. Your health care provider will be able to answer any questions you may have regarding medication for depression. Most likely he or she will talk to you about antidepressants. Common classes of antidepressants include:
- SSRIs (like Prozac)
- SNRIs (like Effexor XR)
What do antidepressants do?
These medications may help the brain make, bind, and better maintain levels of neurotransmitters associated with mood, like serotonin and norepinephrine. Antidepressants may help people feel better, enjoy life more, and be more productive. In some cases, antidepressants can make the counseling process more bearable.
The next, less common treatment method is less common…
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Another possible treatment for depression? Transcranial magnetic stimulation. It is noninvasive, which means no surgery. This painless process that involves using magnetic fields—light shocks—to stimulate the brain’s nerve cells.
Remember, treatment is vital in order to reduce and alleviate symptoms of depression. It is always worth it to seek help, especially if you are aware that your symptoms are severe and abnormal. If not treated, symptoms could worsen. So, just what happens when depression is left untreated?
Dangers if Left Untreated
When left untreated, depression can lead to:
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Behaviors of self-destruction
- Development of terminal medical conditions
- Emotional or physical pain
- Issues at school
- Issues at work
- Personal conflicts
- Severe weight gain or weight loss
- Social isolation
- Thoughts of suicide and even attempts
Of course, these issues are just a few of the complications that can arise from untreated depression…
Complications Down the Line
Many complications from untreated depression can lead to even more challenges in life, like job loss and economic hardship. Both of these issues can worsen depression. These, of course, are just a few examples of the importance of taking care of depression as early as possible.
It should be noted that 20 percent of people who experience a major depressive disorder will develop symptoms of a psychotic nature, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Remember: psychosis can lead to symptoms such as hallucinations. All in all, it is extremely important to seek help for depression to avoid such dangerous complications from arising.
For help in time of a crisis or emergency, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. This resource is free and confidential.