According to the American Psychiatric Association (2013), Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.
The Signs and Symptoms:
Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
Loss of interest in daily activities. You don’t care anymore about former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping.
Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain (Peres et al., 2017).
Not everyone who is depressed experiences every textbook symptom. Some may only have a few symptoms while others experience many. Several persistent symptoms in addition to low mood are required for a diagnosis of major depression, but people with only a few – but distressing – symptoms still may need to seek treatment for their depression. The severity and frequency of symptoms and how long they last will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness (Ben Ari et al., 2014).
If you or a loved one have depression, take any suicidal talk, behavior, or idealizations seriously and watch for the warning signs (Rappaport et al., 2017):
- Talking about killing or harming one’s self
- Expressing strong feelings of hopelessness or being trapped
- An unusual preoccupation with death or dying
- Acting recklessly, as if they have a death wish (e.g. speeding through red lights)
- Calling or visiting people to say goodbye
- Getting affairs in order (giving away prized possessions, tying up loose ends)
- Saying things like “Everyone would be better off without me” or “I want out”
- A sudden switch from being extremely depressed to acting calm and happy
If yourself or a loved one is experiencing any of the above, it is important to let someone know!
You can visit the suicide prevention website to gain information and live chat with someone for help:
or you may call the 24 hour suicide prevention hotline to speak with someone:
Your depression can be treated and there is hope for a healthy and happy future! For some, regular exercise helps create positive feeling and improve mood. Getting enough quality sleep on a regular basis, eating a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol (a depressant) can also help reduce symptoms of depression.
Depression is a real illness and help is available. With proper diagnosis and treatment, the vast majority of people with depression will overcome it. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, a first step is to see your family physician or psychiatrist. Talk about your concerns and request a thorough evaluation. This is a start to addressing mental health needs!
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), Fifth edition. (2013). National Institute of Mental Health. (Data from 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.) www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adults.shtml
Ben Ari (Shevil), E., Johansson, S., Ytterberg, C., Bergström, J., & von Koch, L. (2014). How are cognitive impairment, fatigue and signs of depression related to participation in daily life among persons with multiple sclerosis?. Disability & Rehabilitation, 36(23), 2012-2018. doi:10.3109/09638288.2014.887797
Peres, M., Mercante, J., Tobo, P., Kamei, H., & Bigal, M. (2017). Anxiety and depression symptoms and migraine: a symptom-based approach research. Journal Of Headache & Pain, 18(1), 1-8. doi:10.1186/s10194-017-0742-1
Rappaport, L. M., Moskowitz, D. S., & D’Antono, B. (2017). Depression Symptoms Moderate the Association Between Emotion and Communal Behavior. Journal Of Counseling Psychology, 64(3), 269-279. doi:10.1037/cou0000194