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How do you know if you’re sad or going through depression? When do common feelings develop into a serious mental disorder and how do you recognise it?
How do I know if I’m depressed?
People often say things like ‘I feel so depressed’ or ‘that’s depressing’, but the truth is that depression is a well defined mental disorder, including nine different symptoms. Worth noting is that it’s not enough to experience the symptoms to be diagnosed with depression. There are several depression criteria to consider.
We’ll start with the symptoms of depression. The DSM-5 is a handbook, frequently used by mental health professionals in the US and all over Europe. It contains lots of facts about depression, including the symptoms:
- Depressed mood: Feeling blue most of the day, nearly every day.
- Loss of interest and pleasure: Markedly reduced interest/pleasure in all (or almost all) activities most of the day.
- Changed appetite or weight (eating more or less than usual).
- Sleep disturbance (too much or too little).
- Moving more slowly than usual or making meaningless movements due to anxiety (for example twisting your hands).
- Lacking energy: Feeling tired nearly every day.
- Feeling excessively guilty and/or worthless.
- Having difficulty concentrating and/or making decisions.
- Having suicidal thoughts or sometimes wishing you were dead.
Let’s continue with the depression criteria. It’s not enough to experience some of the symptoms to receive a diagnosis of depression. The following conditions also apply:
- The person experiences at least five depressive symptoms.
- One of the symptoms ‘depressed mood’ or ‘loss of interest and pleasure’ is present.
- The depressive symptoms have been present for at least two weeks.
- The depressive symptoms cause suffering or affect the person’s ability to work, interfere with relationships or other important aspects of life.
- The symptoms can’t be explained by a physical illness or substance abuse.
- The symptoms can’t be explained by another mental disorder.
- The person has never experienced a manic or hypomanic episode.
Depression can be tricky to recognise and diagnose because there are so many symptoms and criteria to consider. The next paragraph includes a commonly used online depression test, which gives you an indication of the severity of your depressive symptoms.
Take a depression test
The depression symptoms test, MADRS-S (Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale), can give you an overall view of your mood. Remember, questionnaires can’t provide you with a complete diagnosis. In clinical practice, the results are used as general guidelines.
The test usually takes 5–10 minutes to complete. Download the Flow depression app to take the test for free. In addition, the app will offer you over 50 virtual therapy sessions (also 100% free).
Are there different kinds of depression?
Being depressed can mean many things. Sometimes, depression is not visible to other people. The depressed person carries symptoms around like a terribly heavy backpack, but still manages work and relationships. Sometimes, depression is apparent for others and the symptoms make it impossible to manage life in the usual way. Depressive symptoms can be divided into three categories: mild, moderate and severe depression.
- Mild depression. All criteria for depression are met, but the depressed person can still keep up with everyday chores, work and social relationships. The depressive symptoms are not always apparent to other people, but mild depression is much more than just feeling blue temporarily. The symptoms don’t disappear like you would expect them to if you were just experiencing ordinary sadness or fatigue. Psychotherapy is recommended for this type of depression. Also, making a few lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on your depressive symptoms.
- Moderate depression. There are more symptoms present and they tend to be more severe than in the case of mild depression. The depressed person experiences difficulty keeping up with work and everyday life. The symptoms are usually severe enough to cause problems in the person’s social life too. If you recognise this level of depression, it’s highly recommended that you seek treatment as soon as possible. Psychotherapy and antidepressant medication are common treatment options. At-home brain stimulation is another way to treat moderate symptoms.
- Severe depression. This is typically a level of depression that makes it a challenge to get out of bed in the morning and very difficult to perform common household chores. The quality of life is greatly reduced and the depressed person can’t keep up with everyday life. It probably affects all social relationships. Usually, it’s associated with an intense experience of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts or plans. If you recognise these depressive symptoms, please, contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible. The next paragraph provides you with links and numbers that you can call. Remember, depression is a treatable condition and there are many different treatment options available.
How do I know if I have depression or not?
An online depression test is not enough to get a diagnosis. The only way to receive a diagnosis of depression is to contact a healthcare professional. A psychologist or physician can make sure all of the criteria for depression are met.
There are some clinics who provide remote consultations through their apps. You can receive the first consultation at home, without having to visit a clinic. Here are two of the most popular online clinics:
- For people living in the UK, contact Babylon
- For people living in Sweden, contact Kry
Depression is more than just feeling sad. It’s a well-defined mental disorder with 9 different symptoms. Luckily, depression is a treatable condition and there are many evidence-based treatment options available.
Image credit: Freepik
Hanna Silva is a psychologist at Flow.