Feeling down or sad from time to time is a normal part of life, but when emotions such as hopelessness and despair take hold and just won’t go away, you may have depression.
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness and you can’t just “snap out of it.” As the nonprofit HelpGuide notes, depression changes how you think, feel, and function on a daily basis. It negatively impacts your ability to work, sleep, and enjoy life. Just trying to get through the day can be overwhelming.
While some people describe depression as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom, others feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic. Men in particular can feel angry and restless. However, you experience depression, left untreated it can become a serious health condition. But it’s important to remember that feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are symptoms of depression—not the reality of your situation.
No matter how hopeless you feel, you can get better. By understanding the cause of your depression and recognising the different symptoms and types of depression, you can take the first steps to feeling better and overcoming the problem.
Most Common Depression Symptoms
You may have noticed some shifts in your mood and behaviours, and are wondering: do I have depression?
Depression varies from person to person, but there are some common signs and symptoms. It’s important to remember that these symptoms can be part of life’s normal lows. But the more symptoms you have, the stronger they are, and the longer they’ve lasted—the more likely it is that you’re dealing with depression.
According to HelpGuide and the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, the most common depression symptoms include:
- 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 criticise yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
- Reckless behaviour. You engage in escapist behaviour 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.
Don’t Confuse Depression Symptoms For Other Conditions
It is sometimes possible to mistake depression for other issues, no matter the person’s age. “Depression can often look like “being lazy” or “anger problems” to others who do not understand clinical depression,” Ertel cautions. “People may judge harshly a loved one who is depressed that has stopped taking care of their basic needs (i.e., showering or eating regularly) because they are unaware of what is happening inside of their loved one’s mind.” It’s important to approach a loved one who is exhibiting depression symptoms with understanding and without judgement — the goal is to get them help, not to “snap them out of it.”
“This [judgement] is often particularly hurtful to those struggling with depression, because, even though they may be more withdrawn, they often still desire connection with those they love (even if they don’t know how to go about getting it).” It can often feel like those with depression are pushing you away. Remember that this is simply the manifestation of the condition, rather than their desire for distance.
Recognising Depression Symptoms Is The First Step to Recovery
We’ve seen that depression has several common symptoms you should watch out for, whether in yourself or in a loved one. The condition affects people differently depending on their age and gender — and there can often be an overlap with anxiety symptoms. Because of the very nature of depression symptoms, it can feel like there’s no way out. But it’s important to remember that feeling hopeless is exactly that — a symptom, rather than the reality of your situation. Recognising depression symptoms is the very first step to getting better — and remember that there are a variety of effective treatments to support you. If you’re looking for help with your depression symptoms, connecting with a licensed online therapist is a great place to start.