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Everybody has those days when they feel down in the dumps. But it's important to know the difference between a few glum days and signs of something more serious. It's important to recognize the warning signs of depression, so that you know when you should seek diagnosis and treatment from your doctor or urge a friend to get the help he or she needs.
The National Institute of Mental Health explains some of the major symptoms of depression and its presentation. Symptoms can come in emotional, mental, and physical forms.
The best-known emotional symptom of depression is a persistent and overwhelming feeling of sadness. Sometimes, anxiety can accompany depression as well. You may lose hope that your life will ever get better, and you may think of your state of mind as entirely your fault. Some people have difficulty relaxing and feeling rested. Instead, they are constantly on edge and unable to sit still or feel at peace. Other emotional signs of depression include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Restlessness or irritability
A depressed person may not want to see anyone or do anything. They may find that social duties feel like a burden. It can be more difficult for them to think clearly and perform complex tasks. They may even experience thoughts of suicide or imagine what the world and people around them would be like without them. Other mental depression signs can be:
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
Depression can be physically exhausting, and one's thoughts and reaction times may slow significantly. Enjoying a good night's sleep becomes extremely difficult, further contributing to physical fatigue. Appetite may also be affected, either because food loses its taste or eating becomes a coping mechanism. Finally, all of the stress, tension, and fatigue of depression can manifest as physical symptoms that may be difficult or impossible to treat without treating the depression itself. The physical effects of depression are summarized as follows:
- Decreased energy, fatigue, or being slowed down
- Difficulty sleeping, including insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite or weight changes, including low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Persistent physical symptoms, such as headaches, pain, and digestive disorders, that cannot otherwise be diagnosed or do not respond to treatment
What to Do Next
If you experience any of these depression warning signs, tell your doctor. Unfortunately, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, only half of Americans who experience a depressive episode ever go on to seek or receive treatment.
Speak to your doctor about your symptoms, and you'll receive references for caring psychologists, psychiatrists, or therapists, all of whom play different roles in your care and who can begin treatment with you. Depending on your situation, treatments can include medication, therapy, or other forms of complementary and alternative medicine. You and your doctor will discuss what approach is best for you, and you shouldn't be surprised if your treatment changes over time.
Never feel like you need to tackle depression on your own. Seeking care from a health care provider could be the best decision you ever make regarding your mental health. It may feel difficult to come forth with mental health issues, but don't be afraid to seek the help that you need to regain your peace of mind. If you see someone struggling with any of these symptoms, urge them to talk to a doctor and get the help and comfort they need.