While the signs of depression can vary from person to person, there are several common signs and symptoms, such as the following:
Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness: You may feel as if you can’t do anything right and that things will never get better.
Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed: It might seem as if you struggle to find motivation to do anything or you don’t enjoy former hobbies, social activities, sex, etc. Perhaps you’ve lost interest in most daily things altogether, such as work or school.
Changes in appetite or weight: You might have noticed that you’re feeling hungry all the time and can’t seem to eat enough. Perhaps you’re eating starchier foods, or those rich in carbohydrates or sugar. Or, it might seem like you’ve lost your appetite and don’t eat as much as you did before. Whichever the case, you may be experiencing unintentional weight gain or loss, and you may be overeating or undereating if you experience a change in 5% or more of body weight in a month.
Sleep changes: You might be experiencing difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much and never feeling rested.
Lack of energy or fatigue: This may involve feeling sluggish or tired all the time. Your entire body may feel heavy or you might notice yourself moving at a slower pace than usual, as if you’re “dragging.”
Anger or irritability: It might seem like the smallest things just set you off, or you might be feeling cranky all the time, but find it hard to pinpoint the cause for your irritability.
Self-loathing: This may come in the form of a lot of negative thoughts about yourself, or constant criticism and feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
Suicidal thoughts: You might start to question “What’s the point of living?” or wonder if you’d be better off dead.
Concentration and/or memory problems: You might find it difficult to focus on tasks that were once simple, or perhaps you are starting to feel overwhelmed by your daily routine and are forgetting simple things and even having trouble making decisions.
Unexplained aches or pains: You may start having an increase in physical pain, such as headaches, muscle tension, back aches, or stomach pain.
What you can do to help your depression
Although depression can look different from person to person, there are several ways to start improving your depression, such as reaching out to others for support, forcing yourself to engage in the enjoyable activities you stopped doing, and seeking treatment.
Often times, when we feel depressed, we have a tendency to shut others out because we don’t feel like talking or being with others seems exhausting. In the short-term, you might find temporary relief from dodging others, but in the long-term this can lead to isolation, and feeling more depressed over time. So, reach out! Even if you don’t “feel like it.” Try to be transparent with those around you and let them know that you don’t feel well and you need their support. Humans are not meant to live in isolation, and we know from research that social support, or even connecting with one other person who is close to you, can create a change in mood.
Similar to shutting others out when our mood is low, we might also stop doing things we used to enjoy because we don’t have the energy, motivation, etc. Your brain needs that natural “high” you get from engaging in pleasurable activities (e.g., exercise, socializing, hobbies), and the less you do, the worse you feel. Sometimes waiting to feel motivated before doing certain things can just lead to waiting forever. “Force yourself,” to do at least one pleasurable activity a day, even if it’s brief—such as 10-15 min. You’ll likely get more “bang for your buck,” and you’ll notice a change in mood and energy as you’re going through the activity. This change typically lasts even beyond the activity.
Lastly, seeking mental health treatment can be very helpful for treating depression, especially if you’re feeling “stuck” and need a jump start. There are several treatments for depression out there that are time-limited (e.g. 1-3 months) and effective. While the thought of participating in mental health treatment can seem daunting, it’s important to keep in mind that seeking treatment doesn’t mean you’re weak, a failure, unintelligent, etc.; it simply means you are looking for new strategies to help with health concerns you don’t know how to fix at this point. Treatment doesn’t have to last forever, and once you learn the skills to feel better, you can continue to apply them on your own for the rest of your life.