Depression is far more common than you think. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in ten adults report they are affected by depression, but many more suffer in silence, either embarrassed or ashamed to talk to their doctors. If left untreated, this surprisingly common mental health condition can have serious consequences.
But by knowing the signs and symptoms of depression, you can help make more informed decisions about treatment for you and your loved ones.
The National Institute of Mental Health’s check list includes signs and symptoms of depression, and can help you determine if you or someone you know may be depressed. Here are some of the telltale symptoms of depression:
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings – While we all have sad days, people suffering from depression have these feelings for more than two weeks.
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism – Depression is often characterized by a bleak outlook. It may feel like nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing that can be done to improve the situation.
- Loss of energy – Many people suffering from depression feel fatigued, sluggish and physically drained. Small tasks may be exhausting or take longer to complete than usual.
- Concentration problems – Trouble focusing, making decisions or remembering things can often accompany depression.
- Irritability and restlessness – Everyone and everything may get on the nerves of a person suffering depression. They may have a low tolerance level and a short temper.
- Loss of interest in once-pleasant activities or hobbies– Hobbies, pastimes and social activities don’t offer joy or pleasure for people suffering from depression.
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness or excessive sleeping – Depression is often accompanied by trouble sleeping. That many include not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much and still feeling like you don’t have any energy.
- Significant weight loss or weight gain – Some people suffering from depression may overeat, or not eat at all. This can lead to a change of more than 5 percent of body weight in a month.
- Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt – Depression patients criticize themselves harshly for perceived faults and mistakes.
- Unexplained aches and pains – An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles and stomach pain.
Depression looks different for everyone. Some people will only experience a few symptoms, while others will feel all of the symptoms listed above. For most patients, symptoms will vary over time in intensity. But people feeling these symptoms for longer than two weeks are likely suffering from a form of depression.
Depression is treatable once it is diagnosed by a doctor, and it’s something that millions of people live with on a daily basis. Once diagnosed and in a provder’s care, treatments that include medication or psychotherapy are most common, but just as the symptoms vary, so will each patient’s treatment plan.
If these signs or symptoms describe you or a loved one, talk to someone you trust with experience in mental health, such as a doctor, a nurse or a religious counselor. You can also find mental health services in your area, or learn about other resources at the National Institute of Mental Health.
You can also download the image below from ValueOptions to assess your current risk or share with someone you love.