There are so many signs of depression that most of us won’t recognise that it’s depression. This article is useful as it would help you to recognise what is going on with yourself or with someone you know.
Many of us can recognise the major signs of depression such as feeling low, not getting out of bed etc. However, there are other subtler signs of depression where someone may not always feel or appear sad or constantly tearful but could still be experiencing depression.
This is useful as often ourselves or our family and friends are suffering and we don't know what's happening. This will help you to recognise what is going on and get appropriate help.
1. I am drinking more alcohol than normal
If you are having more than one drink, every day of the week, where you NEED to have a glass of wine to feel better. Research says that nearly one-third of people with depression have problems with alcohol. This does not include those that have that emotional dependency just to get through the day. You don’t need to be an “alcoholic” (can’t stand that word) to abuse alcohol. What you need to ask yourself, how would you feel if you never had a drink for a week?
Alcohol is one of the world’s best painkillers. In the past, it was used to carry out operations. Not only does it help with physical pain, it helps mask emotional pain as well. Drinking is a common tactic for people to self-medicate emotional stress.
This also applies to opiate based medication such as codeine which is also an anesthetic that kills emotional pain.
Drinking too much alcohol and treating it constantly as an emotional crutch is a clear sign of depression.
2. I have gained or lost weight
Surprised weight gain. Maybe you have weighed yourself and you are heavier than you thought you would be. Are you constantly eating ready meals or takeaways because you are too tired and lack motivation to cook? Tiredness and low motivation is a sign of depression.
Then on top of that you may be eating a lot of sugary things such as chocolate, ice cream, cakes etc that raise our blood sugar levels quickly. This makes us feel good, but then our blood sugar levels drop quickly too, with that our mood as well. Then we need to eat some more to feel better. That’s why a few scoops of ice-cream can easily become a whole tub. Comfort food can raise levels of feel good hormones in our brain but can also lead to weight gain, with feelings of guilt and shame.
There is a flip side to this where depression can cause weight loss for some people as they lose their appetite.
3. I am often in pain or always ill
You may be experiencing a lot of physical pain and other illnesses
Psychoneuroimmunology, PNI for short, is the study of the link between how you think and feel affects your health. The ayurvedics and ancient medicine have known this for thousands of years but modern science is now starting to catch up. There is a study, in Canada, that people with depression were up to four times likely to have neck or lower back pain than those without.
Your thoughts and feelings affect your health. You may be experiencing chronic pain such as back ache, or constant headaches, colds and flu etc. This can be a sign about what’s going on within.
That is why those paracetemol’s are not working, no matter how strong they are. There are other factors of course but this could be one of them.
It’s not also what you think and feel but many people experiencing depression also eat poorly so that affects your health too.
Also, people with depression, according to the Archives of General Psychiatry, are more sensitive to pain in general. They found that when unhappy people anticipate pain, their brain shows, through MRI scans, more emotion and less coping, so they are not as able to handle the hurt.
4. I am no longer looking after myself or taking care of my appearance
Lack of grooming, which may disappear is a sign of depression. In a survey of more than 10,000 people in 2014, 61% who had problems with their teeth said they were depressed. The more dental problems they had, the more severe the problem was.
Not caring what you look like on the outside can be a strong sign that there are problems happening on the inside.
5. I don’t feel anything
I don’t feel sad, I don’t feel happy, I don’t laugh, I don’t cry.
Other people may see you as cold, distant or aloof but this only distance you more from those who can support you. Because you look OK and you tell people that you are “OK”, or that you are “alright”. Maybe you are Ok, but what makes you happy? What makes you feel sad? The problem here is that you don’t know as you have somehow stopped feeling and numbed everything out.
6. I’ve got a short fuse
We all have four inbuilt ways of responding to stress which is: fight (what we are talking about now), flight (we use things to avoid what we are feeling), or freeze (where we disconnected and distant).
In this instance, we are talking about the fight response. If the slightest thing makes you angry, or you are constantly grouchy and irritated, could be a sign of depression. You may over respond to someone pulling out in front of you when you are driving. You may go ballistic when your child forgot their school jumper. I’m not talking about getting angry as at times it is the human thing to do but if you only respond to situations with anger, people walk on eggshells around you or you find it difficult to calm down, could be signs that something is wrong.
7. I am always busy – I can never sit still
I mentioned the flight response above. This is typical if you can’t stop working and can’t relax. You often hear them say that they can’t stay at home and do nothing, they need to be constantly doing something.
Signs of this include bringing work on your holidays, constantly cleaning even when your home is clean, constantly on social media checking your Facebook or Instagram account or a 70-hour work week is nothing to you even if you don’t get paid for it.
8. Lost in my own head
Maybe you think too much and can’t stop regurgitating things that have happened to you. Maybe you totally lose yourself in your thoughts and dreams about what you want to happen to you. It is good to have dreams for the future but we also need to feel good about the present and have made resolutions with our past. If the present is too much for you and you find yourself focusing on what you want to happen rather than facing up to your realities, could be another sign.
9. My Sleep is affected
When your sleep is affected, this could be a clear sign of depression.
Either you find that you sleep too much where you can sleep most of the night and most of the morning. You even find yourself too tired.
You struggle to get to sleep and can just lie there for hours.
Or your sleep is broken where you can get off to sleep fine but wake up a while later and can’t get back to sleep.
10. I Lack Energy and constantly feeling drained
Feeling tired and drained all the time could also be linked to not sleeping and or not eating well. However for those who have experienced depression, the depressive thoughts are exhausting. They are not elevating you in any way to make you feel good so they will drain you.
So lack of sleep, not eating well and those negative thoughts would make you feel drained.
11. I am not enjoying the things I used to
Maybe you used to go out for walks and enjoy being in nature. Or you used to enjoy listening to music or watching certain t.v. programmes. Now you feel that you can’t really bother with them as you are not enjoying them any more.
You don’t even notice things that are beautiful or pay attention to the things that used to make you feel happy.
12. I have withdrawn from my friends and family
You no longer feel that you want to be around the people you used to enjoy being with. You want to keep yourself to yourself and prefer to be on your own. You find that you avoid phone calls, family events and functions or just attend for a short time. Even if you do go, you participate in the functions as much as you used to.
13. I have been having Suicidal thoughts
You may not be actively suicidal and have plans to take your life but there is a part of you that wishes you wasn’t here. Not that you want to die, you want the pain to end, you wish you could disappear.
If you are actively suicidal where you have made plans to take your life. Please contact your nearest health provider urgently. Also remember that suicide is a permanent answer to problems. Your problems are temporary while suicide is permanent.
14. I have such Negative thoughts
Maybe you constantly catastrophise, thinking that the worst possible thing will always happen. Or you keep comparing yourself to other people or situations. Or do you only notice the bad stuff and filter out the positives? You constantly criticise yourself and maybe others? You also find it hard not constantly thinking about bad memories that are upsetting or mistakes you have made in the past.
15. My performance at work is poor
You may dread going into work and really worry about going in. You also may find it hard focusing on your job and concentrating on what you need to be doing. You find that you are not working to your usual high standard.
Thanks for reading. I hope you found this useful. This article is just to help you grow awareness that some of the things that we just put up with could be a sign of depression and that something else is going on. It is also important to be aware that when we know what is happening, we can do something about it rather than let it fester or worsen over time. If any of this resonates with you and you are considering Therapy, please don’t hesitate to contact me for a non-obligation chat.
I am a Therapist based in Sutton Coldfield, UK also available online.
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