Recognize the subtle signs of depression

Everybody gets the blues now and then. It’s a natural part of life and the inspiration for innumerable songs over the years. But when sadness lingers past rainy days and Mondays and affects your daily life, it may actually be something more serious like clinical depression.

Depression is a medical condition that affects every aspect of your life—how you feel, how you think, how you cope, how you eat, and how you act towards others. If you experience symptoms of depression every day for more than two weeks, it could be a sign that you’re clinically depressed.

Do you know what to look for? Some signs are subtle and can be written off as common human concerns such as age, a job, financial debt or lack of social connection. Here are a few signals to be mindful of.

Social media addiction

If you can’t go five minutes without checking Facebook, and your Twitter feed is your primary way to communicate, it could be a sign you’re depressed. Social media can provide a huge distraction from your real life, causing you to be less present in your daily activities. Communicating solely through social media is isolating and can also mask your true feelings if you are attempting to portray a “perfect” life to the rest of the world.

Sleep interruptions

Have you been counting sheep so often that they’re starting to seem like pets? Changes to your sleep patterns are one way your body deals with depression. If you’re getting up extra early every morning, waking up throughout the night, or suddenly needing a long afternoon nap, you may be depressed.

Excessive exhaustion

Do the smallest tasks seem like insurmountable burdens? Are you exhausted—both mentally and physically—and feeling totally . . . blah? Are you overwhelmed with daily chores or your job all of a sudden? It’s easy to blame your lack of energy on stress or a hectic life, but it could require medical attention.

Irritability, short temper, hostility

Depression is often masked by anger and a lightning-quick temper. More than half the people with long-term depression experience hostility and extreme irritability. You can often judge how extreme your rage is (even if you don’t think it’s that bad) by how the people around you respond to your reactions. Consider talking to your doctor if you find yourself flying off the handle with little provocation on a regular basis.

Change in appetite

Has your favorite food suddenly lost its appeal? Or maybe you can’t put down the ice cream and chips. Whether you’re eating too little or too much, be aware of the changes in your appetite and eating patterns. Both could lead to weight loss or gain, signaling to others around you that something is amiss.

Brain fog

Getting momentarily distracted occasionally is normal. But brain fog and extreme confusion or distraction could be a sign of something more serious. If you routinely find yourself struggling to concentrate or hold a thought, it could be a sign you’re depressed.

Lasting aches and pains

Depression affects your physical state too. Some reports indicate that depression makes your nerves more sensitive, which causes pain that gets worse as your depression becomes more pronounced. If you’ve been taking ibuprofen throughout the day for several days or weeks because of general “pain,” this could be a red flag.

Mood swings

Happy events or special occasions can reduce negative feelings temporarily. Once the initial burst of happiness or “high” fades, you may return to your feelings of sadness or emptiness, and they could be even more intense. This “toggling” from one emotion or to another or feeling like you’re on a roller coaster can be a sign you are depressed.

If you identified with 2 or more of the symptoms above, consider having a conversation with your doctor or therapist. There’s no shame in asking for help. If you feel you need to talk to a specialist here’s a list of Swedish providers trained in helping people with depression. You can also explore treatment options offered at Swedish here.

About the Author

Whether it's stress, anxiety, dementia, addiction or any number of life events that impede our ability to function, mental health is a topic that impacts nearly everyone. The Swedish Behavioral Health Team is committed to offering every-day tips and clinical advice to help you and your loved ones navigate mental health conditions.

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