Recognizing the Signs of Depression

Published July 2, 2012 by jptan2012

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve received two ‘suicide email’ in one day, and because of that I’ve decided to ask my clinical counselor friend to share with me some tips on how a person can recognize depression on themselves or a loved one.

Please fine below the things that she shared with me. I’ve decided to simply copy paste it.

PERSISTENT SAD, ANXIOUS, OR ‘EMPTY’ FEELINGS. This symptom looks like a low mood but persists even after time goes by and the cause of the bad mood has cleared up or receded.

What to look for: Blank stares, loss of interest in life, an inability to feel or express happiness or other emotions. Or the person may report just feeling “empty” or “numb.”

What else to know: Often the depressed person isn’t fully aware of this symptom. Try asking, “When’s the last time you were happy?”

FEELINGS OF HOPELESSNESS, WORTHLESSNESS, OR HELPLESSNESS. In an “Eeyore-like” pessimistic way, the depressed person can’t help feeling that everything is wrong and it’s his or her fault (rather than the fault of the situation or the illness itself). It’s a hallmark sign of major depression. In mild depression, the feelings are similar but less extreme.

How to tell: The person seems unable to see any positive flip side to things or light at the end of the tunnel — and feels little sense of control over choices or events. The person talks and acts as if he or she has no options, can’t see a different path, is useless and meaningless. He or she may fixate on past mistakes, ruminating over them and expressing guilt and self blame.

What else to know: Listen for comments like these: “It’s hopeless.” “I can’t do anything about it.” “I have no choice.” “Nobody cares.” “I’m stuck.” “I should have/could have/ if only….”

FREQUENT CRYING EPISODES. The crying may not seem to have a direct or obvious trigger; sobs often come “out of nowhere.” But it’s not normal to cry every day (though the depressed person may not realize this).

What to look for: In between episodes you witness, you may notice red eyes, sniffles, cracking voice, balled-up tissues, and other trails to tears.

What else to know: Not every depressed person cries; in fact, some never do. Research has shown that women are more inclined to this behavior than men. A 2001 University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) study found that crying isn’t related to the severity of depression and that people who cry more may have briefer depressive episodes.

INCREASED AGITATION AND RESTLESSNES. Some people with depression fall on the “hyper” end of a spectrum of behaviors, where others are the opposite (see symptom #5).

What to look for: The person may seem unable to relax, more irritable than usual, quicker to anger, full of restless energy, seldom calm. Look for pacing, lashing out at others, frequent standing up and sitting back down.

What else to know: For the depressed person, everything seems magnified. So small slights or irritations aren’t just pebbles in the psyche, they’re giant boulders that get in the way of ordinary life.

FATIGUE AND DECREASED ENERGY. Typically depressed people who don’t show a lot of agitation and restlessness (symptom #4) experience the flip side of those behaviors — an increased sluggishness and slowness.

What to look for: The person may complain of having no energy, of feeling unproductive, or of “slowing down.” He or she may have quit exercising, seem tired a lot, move more slowly, and have slowed reactions. “To-Do” lists never get finished the way they once did. The person may skip work.

What else to know: Fatigue is a real mind-body problem. Low mood and loss of motivation are partly at work, as well as a physiological depletion of energy — and the two forces keep reinforcing each other.

LOSS OF INTEREST IN ACTIVITIES OR HOBBIES THAT WERE ONCE PLEASURABLE. This is one of the single most telling symptoms of depression.

What to look for: The person no longer takes pleasure in things that once brought enjoyment, whether the lives of children or grandchildren, a hobby or craft, exercise, cooking, book club, watching sports — or anything. The person may begin to decline invitations, refuse to go out, not want to see friends or family.

What else to know: Some depressed people lose interest in sex. For others, sex functions as a kind of escape, used the same way some depressed people turn to alcohol or drugs.

 DIFFICULTY CONCENTRATING, REMEMBERING DETAILS, AND MAKING DECISIONS. “Fuzzy thinking” is often apparent both to the depressed person and his or her family, friends, and colleagues.

How to tell: Various mental slips may become obvious, such as forgetting appointments and errands, making checkbook errors, misplacing objects, forgetting names, avoiding making plans, postponing decisions or deferring them to others. The person may begin writing reminders to himself or herself or take a long time reading (because it’s harder to focus). It may become harder to perform complicated tasks.

What else to know: Cognitive changes associated with depression can look like dementia; in fact, people with dementia are prone to depression, and vice-versa.

 SLEEPING TOO MUCH OR NOT ENOUGH. Disordered sleep and depression are closely related; in some people, depression manifests as insomnia (inability to fall sleep or to stay asleep), while others experience the opposite extreme: All the person feels like doing is sleeping.

What to look for: Regular sleep routines are disrupted; staying up too late or going to bed unusually early; being unable to awaken on time; complaining about a poor night’s sleep; sleeping long hours but fitfully — so the person never feels rested; excessive napping by day.

What else to know: Depression is a leading cause of sleep problems, in part because it interferes with natural biological rhythms.

POOR APPETITE OR OVEREATING. Again, the symptom tends to show up as one extreme or the other: The person loses interest in eating or falls into a pattern of constant, emotionally triggered eating.

What to look for: Missed meals, picking at food (especially if this is a change for the person), lying about food intake; loss of interest even in formerly favorite foods, mindless munching and other mindless eating, throwing up after eating; weight gain or weight loss.

What else to know: Depression is a common cause of the eating disorders anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. It’s true both that depression can lead to eating disorders and that people with eating disorders can develop depression.

 EXPRESSING THOUGHTS OF DYING OR SUICIDE. Depression is one of the conditions most commonly associated with suicide. It begins to seem like a logical way to end the pain and suffering. As many as 90 percent of those who commit suicide are clinically depressed, have a substance abuse problem, or both, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. (Many people with depression self-medicate with alcohol, which lowers inhibitions and increases the risk for suicide.)

If you think you or a person you know has depression there are only two things that you can do. REACH OUT and GET PROFESSIONAL HELP!

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