Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you have depression. With me, it was fairly obvious by my anxiety, foul mood and persistent crying. But symptoms of depression can mimic other illnesses, too. You should always consult your doctor if you have questions or think you are experiencing any mental illness symptoms. It’s always a good idea to get a full work up, so you can rule out other illness, but like I said, sometimes it’s obvious.
Here are 10 common depression symptoms (from the National Institute of Mental Health):
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness – This was a big one for me. No matter if something good happened to me, I’d always feel like it wasn’t good enough. That I would feel that way forever. I’m happy to say that it does get better, but to be honest, sometimes it can be a awhile for your doctor to figure out what works for you. Just don’t give up
- Feelings of extreme guilt and worthlessness – This also is a big one. I feel incredibly guilty about everything, even to this day. I would start worrying that the lunch I packed for the kids wasn’t good enough and that meant I was a bad mom. Or I’d feel guilty if I took a nap, even if it was restorative. I hate feeling guilt all the time but it has gotten better
- Loss of interest/pleasure in hobbies or activities that were once enjoyable – I noticed this right off the bat. I stopped reading, and I LOVE to read. I also notice that when I’m going through a depressive episode* I don’t sing as much. I love to sing. It makes me happy, so my family knows to worry when I’m not singing all hours of the day. A lot of people who suffer from depression experience decreased interest in sex
- Decreased energy/fatigue – This one’s hard to deal with. There are times that I feel it physically impossible to get out of bed or that my limbs weigh 100 pounds each. Even when my to-do list wasn’t lengthy, I couldn’t do most of it
- Restlessness/irritability – I don’t feel like I’m restless when I’m going through an episode, but I am extremely irritable. Little things set me off and get me flustered. I have a short fuse with the kids and even sounds — like loud or repetitive noises — drive me up a wall
- Sleep disturbances – People with depression either sleep too much or not enough. For me, I would sleep too much — about 8 to 10 hours a night and maybe a nap during the day. A lot of the time I’d go to bed early only because I couldn’t stand being awake to feel any more than I was feeling
- Appetite changes – This is very common. Some people notice a decreased appetite, however; I would always gain a bit of weight (mostly because I have Binge Eating Disorder, too)
- Suicidal Ideation or attempts – I can’t stress this enough — if you are having suicidal thoughts and have a plan to kill yourself, please seek help immediately. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member. Contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or use the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741)
- Difficulty concentrating, having trouble remembering or making decisions – It can be very hard for some to remember things and it might take you a long time to make a decision. I don’t have too much experience with these (except memory problems caused by ECT)
Less Common Symptoms of Depression
- Physical pain that can’t be explained – This can include back aches, stomachaches and headaches
- You drink more alcohol than usual – I don’t drink but this makes sense. Sometimes you don’t want to feel anything, so you turn to alcohol or drugs to make you feel better. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t make you feel better. If it does, it’s only temporary
- Moving of talking more slowly – Depression has quite an effect on the brain. It literally slows your brain and body down, so other people may notice you speaking or moving more slowly than usual
- Digestive problems without clear physical cause – This goes along with physical pain mentioned above. Studies show that depression can cause an inflamed digestive system. I know that when I’m having a lot of anxiety, my stomach starts hurting and the more I worry, the worse it gets. Read more about how depression affects your stomach here
- Angry outbursts – This seems like it would be a common symptom, maybe because I experience it so much, but as I mentioned earlier, I have such a short fuse at times and I snap at my husband and kids. I think my parents would agree that I’ve been experiencing this symptom since I was a teenager
*A depressive episode is when you experience symptoms of depression lasting at least two weeks. Read more about that here.
Again, always consult your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression. To learn more about depression, visit the National Institute of Mental Health.
If you are struggling with suicidal ideation, please reach out to a friend or contact the helplines listed above.
Stay in the light.