Experiencing symptoms of depression can be incredibly debilitating and can negatively impact your quality of life. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression, know that there are tons of helpful resources and treatments available that can help reduce uncomfortable symptoms.
Major Depressive Disorder
Depression can be sparked by a stressful life event, past trauma that is resurfacing, and/or a combination of genetic factors. Major Depressive Disorder is a mood disorder where more often than not within a two-week period an individual will experience at least five of the listed depressive symptoms. Two of these five symptoms must include depressed mood and anhedonia to qualify for a diagnosis.
Depressed mood can be described as feeling down, low, and sad. You may experience bouts of crying that you don't quite understand or have a hard time preventing yourself from being tearful throughout the day. In some, a depressed mood can manifest as anger and rage. This may look like someone who starts fights often, breaks objects, and has an explosive temper.
Anhedonia is the loss of enjoyment over activities that you used to find fun and interesting. For example, someone who used to go hiking every day no longer sees the point in doing so and no longer experiences the joy that hiking used to bring them. Social situations with close friends and family members may also be avoided and/or feel less fun.
Change in Appetite
For some individuals depressive symptoms can lead to weight loss without trying and a decrease in appetite. On the flip side, some may experience overeating and weight gain. Think of the change in appetite as a disconnect between the brain and body hunger cues. Overeating can be an attempt to boost mood, while under-eating may take place due to one's lack of energy.
Feelings of Worthlessness
During a depressive episode you may experience very negative self talk. This can include putting yourself down, feeling empty, lonely, and pointless. These feelings can lead to rumination, which can lead to worsened depressive symptoms.
You may also experience a clouded mind and have a hard time making decisions, even ones that seem fairly easy or typical. This difficulty with focusing can make you feel forgetful and scatterbrained, which can be really uncomfortable to experience day after day.
Psychomotor agitation is another symptom of depression and it means that your body will actually move and react more slowly than it normally would. It also means that getting up and moving around can feel exhausting and even the simplist task can feel daunting.
Some individuals with depression may be highly irritable and quick to react to others and circumstances that normally would not merit a reaction. This may include physical and verbal outbursts that are later regretted and feel uncontrollable.
Experiencing Physical Pain
Some with symptoms of depression actually experience physical pain. This manifestation is not unlike heartbreak, where some individuals feel physical pain during intense bouts of sadness.
Feelings of hopelessness can be extremely uncomfortable to live with. Examples include feeling like you'll never be back to your old self again, feeling like life isn't worth living, and feeling like you won't be able to ever be happy again. Feelings of hopelessness can quickly turn into suicidal thoughts and attempts. If you are noticing recurrent feelings of hopelessness, reach out immediately to a crisis line, your therapist, or a trusted loved one and ask for help.
Suicidal Thoughts and/or Attempts
A potentially fatal sign of depression is having suicidal thoughts that become attempts. If you or a loved one has a plan, intent, and means readily available, you or your loved one is at an increasingly higher rate of completing a suicide attempt. Suicidal thoughts should always be taken very seriously and immediate help should be sought out. This can include:
- Hospitalization: a mandatory hold may be placed on the patient in order to prevent a suicidal attempt
- Setting up a family or a friend to monitor the individual and provide comfort 24/7 (in shifts)
- Contacting a crisis line.
Long term treatment like seeing a therapist, a psychiatrist, and possibly exploring inpatient programs can also be helpful. Because many individuals with depressive symptoms may have experienced some form of trauma, seeking out trauma focused treatments like EMDR, equine assisted psychotherapy, and trauma focused Cognitive-Behavioral therapy can also be helpful.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Persistent Depressive Disorder, formerly known as dysthymia, is a chronic depressive disorder that impacts both children and adults. To qualify for a diagnosis, the symptoms must be present for at least two years with no more than two symptom free months in between bouts of depressive symptoms. Individual will experience symptoms every day or nearly every day throughout the majority of their day. Symptoms include:
- Low energy and exhaustion
- Change in appetite (either over or under eating)
- Over sleeping, or having trouble falling asleep
- Feeling hopeless and/or worthless
- Low self esteem
Finding Appropriate Treatment
Symptoms of depression can completely interfere with your overall health, happiness, and wellbeing. Prioritize taking care of yourself and seek out appropriate treatment if you are noticing signs of depression in yourself or a loved one. There are tons of hands on or off treatment modalities that can absolutely improve your quality of life.