Home Mental Health & Well-Being Understanding and Recognising Depression

Understanding and Recognising Depression

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Depression is one of the most common mental health problems. Different studies show different results, but one generalised estimation is that around 7–8% of the people in the US have at least one major depressive episode per year. This is a very large percentage, and it comes to show that depression is a very widespread issue, especially in Western societies. But the fact that so many people nowadays are prone to suffering from depression also somewhat causes society to see this condition as something normal and less serious than it actually is. It also leads to a lot of misconceptions about depression, such as that feeling sad and being depressed are the same thing. 

Unfortunately, this lack of awareness about the nature of depression, its symptoms, and its causes, only serves to deepen the problem. Often, people with depression are told to just “snap out of it” since they don’t really have a very serious problem. In other cases, a depressed person may be told that they have nothing to be sad about, so their depression is unwarranted. On the flip side, it’s also becoming very common for people to self-diagnose themselves with depression when, in reality, they are simply feeling down because of everyday struggles that every person is bound to experience. This could lead such people to resort to depression medications that they don’t really need, leading to other problems down the line that could have easily been avoided. 

All in all, as common as depression is nowadays, it’s also vastly misunderstood and this ignorance is part of what’s deepening the problem. In this article, we’ll go over the main symptoms of depression in order to help raise awareness about this all-too-common mental health condition and hopefully allow more people to recognise the signs so that they can address them rather than let depression eat away at the minds of their loved ones.

What are the main symptoms of depression?

We should note that every person is different, and their depression can manifest itself in different ways and with different intensity. For example, it’s not uncommon for people who are more reserved and don’t normally share their thoughts and feelings with others, to show little to no symptoms of depression (or to at least be able to hide those symptoms very well). On the other hand, people who are generally more emotional and open to sharing how they feel with others may often seem to show signs of depression, while, in reality, that’s just their normal self expressing their feelings. Still, there are some common depression symptoms and being aware of them and looking out for them in people close to you can help discover and address the issue.

Apathy and disinterest

Depressed people often feel like nothing in the world matters and everything is pointless and meaningless. They tend to lose interest in things that would normally get them excited and things that they typically enjoy, such as a favourite hobby or activity.

Continued sadness 

Yes, depression isn’t the same as sadness, yet persistent sad feelings that seem to have no specific cause or, conversely, seem to have many causes at the same time, are a possible indication of depression. So, if you, or someone you know, has been sad for over a couple of weeks, especially when there isn’t a specific cause for that sadness, know that the person may be suffering from depression.

Changes in appetite and weight

Depression often causes people to change their daily habits, and one of the most common habit changes is how much they eat. Depressed people often tend to excessively consume food as a coping mechanism or, conversely, their apathy makes them lose appetite and eat very little. Obviously, such changes in one’s eating habits is bound to also cause a change in their weight, so if you notice that someone close to you is eating too much/too little and has suddenly gained or lost a lot of weight, this could mean they are going through a depression episode.

Sleeping disorders

Like with the changes in one’s appetite, both oversleeping and getting too little sleep are possible indicators of depression. On the one hand, people suffering from this mental health condition will often resort to sleeping as a way to escape their negative thoughts. On the other hand, some depressed individuals may find falling and/or remaining asleep very difficult, causing them to get little to no sleep. 

Mood swings

While mood swings are generally associated with other conditions, such as bi-polar disorder or IED (Intermittent Explosive Disorder), they are also a possible symptom of depression. However, if the mood swings seem to be the prevalent symptom, then it’s possible that the person is struggling with one of those other conditions and not depression. For instance, if the individual is prone to getting angry very easily over trivial matters, then they may have the IED disorder, in which case a different strategy, such as taking up an anger management class, will be required to deal with the issue.

Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, and suicidal thoughts

The final symptom we want to talk about is a combined sense of hopelessness, pointlessness, and worthlessness felt by the individual. Obviously, if it’s not you, but a person you know, who is suffering from depression, it can be difficult to know whether they have these feelings unless they choose to share them with you. However, this is one of the most typical symptoms of depression and one of the main reasons why depressed individuals sometimes have suicidal thoughts. It is, therefore, very important to keep an eye out for such indicators and make sure to give your full support to anyone close to you who may be suffering from this mental health condition.

Adam Mulligan, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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