Feeling down or depressed?
Nowadays the two are used interchangeably but it is important to know the line between low mood and real depression. While sad feelings are a part of a healthy person’s emotional palette, depression is a real illness with a wide range of symptoms that need to be taken seriously. So how can you recognize when you or a close one suffers from depression?
Feeling sad and ‘empty’ is arguably the most well-known of all the symptoms of depression. Feeling down, thus, is part of depression but it needs to persist for at least two weeks and be present nearly every day to signal a problem. Low mood may be different for a generally cheerful and optimistic person than for somebody who is naturally melancholic. Consequently, low mood in depression represents rather a change from the person’s baseline than an objectively measurable low level of mood. While feeling sad is typical in depression, it is common to experience excessive anxiety or irritability as well. Depressed people often feel guilty inappropriately which makes it difficult for them to share their problems with others and ask for help.
Way of Thinking
Concentration is often generally impaired in depression; it becomes difficult to focus, remember information and making decisions turns into a burden. At the same time, depressed people’s thinking shows some specific characteristics, too. It is often seen that they think they are worthless and can do nothing to help their situation. Thinking about death and suicide makes depression a dangerous condition if left untreated. Thoughts about themselves, the world and their future become increasingly pessimistic. Similarly to blinders on horses, depression blocks people from seeing any positive events, memories or possibilities in their life. An important part of their therapy is to open up these blinders and help the depressed person see the brighter side of life again.
The effects of depression on a person’s behaviour might be the first thing to notice, thus it is good to keep the warning signs in mind. Decreased interest in once pleasurable activities causes depressed people to withdraw from their hobbies and usual free time activities. They will often be really tired and stop doing chores if it feels simply too hard to do them. The opposite is not uncommon either, feeling restless and agitated might make a person suffering from depression active (e.g. workaholic) but the activity is not enjoyable anymore. Change in appetite (eating too much or too little) or significant weight change in either direction might signal depression. Sleep is commonly affected, too; one might find it difficult to sleep and might even wake up several times during the night, while somebody else might sleep significantly more than they used to.
Depressive emotions, thoughts and behaviours intensify one another, creating a depressive spiral which makes the illness more and more serious as time goes by. But fortunately, it is never too late to reverse the spiral and start working on getting back to living the life one used to enjoy before the onset of depression.