Depression is often difficult to notice because many times it comes as a natural follow-up to normal feelings of sadness. Understanding when normal grief or low self-esteem ends and clinical depression begins can be confusing at best. However, most healthcare providers note that depression begins when a person feels as if he cannot bring himself out of his sadness or when his sadness begins to interfere with important areas of his life such as family relationships or his work outside the home. Because of the indistinct boundaries of depression symptoms, many individuals go untreated. Learning the following symptoms of depression can help individuals and their families recognize this condition and look for appropriate treatment.
Psychiatrists recognize a number of types of depression. The one that most people think of immediately is known as major depressive disorder. However, depression can also occur after childbirth, which is known as postpartum depression, during the dark winter months, which is known as seasonal affective disorder, and with manic symptoms, which is known as bipolar disorder. However, depression symptoms remain mainly the same despite the cause.
Physical symptoms of depression are often the easiest to pinpoint, particularly by the individual himself. These symptoms may occur gradually or seem to come on suddenly. One of the first issues that may be noticed is changes in sleeping patterns. Some may find that they have difficulty getting to sleep at night or that they wake up often. Others may find that they sleep too much or continue feeling excessively tired throughout the day. They may find it difficult to rouse enough energy to perform even simple chores. They may often lie down for naps. Decreased energy may cause the person to move and respond very slowly. A second symptom is a change in eating patterns. Once again, this may vary individually; some people may find that they have no interest in eating while others may want to eat all the time. A third symptom is decreased libido without any other known physical cause. Finally, some people may only experience strange, new physical problems such as a new pain or indigestion without known cause.
Mental symptoms of depression are often much less specific than the physical ones. Some individuals are able to disregard these symptoms for a time, assuming that they are related to something else, such as increased stress at work or a recent sickness. However, these symptoms are just as concerning. A depressed person may find that he has trouble focusing on his tasks, or he may complain of not being able to think or make decisions as quickly as he once was. He may struggle to pay attention as he reads or listens to others talk. His mind may feel as if it is leaping from one thought to the next while he is unable to control it. However, the most serious mental symptom by far is the thought of wanting to end one’s life or utter hopelessness.
Emotional depression symptoms are typically the vaguest and are oftentimes the hardest to address. Of course, most people would identify extreme sadness and discouragement with depression. Excessive crying is another key sign. Some people may find that they have no interest in any activities including ones that used to be their favorites. Other people may display short tempers and anger over petty things. They may begin to lash out at strangers and even at those close to them. Finally, some may feel responsible for most things that go wrong around them. They may feel intense guilt even over things unrelated to them.
Thoughts of wanting to end one’s life should always be taken seriously and addressed immediately. Most often, a friend or family member will be the one to first notice this extremely depressed mood. Although it may seem as if the person would never follow through on his wishes, a depressed person is certainly capable of this. He should immediately be seen by a psychiatrist or should be taken to a hospital emergency room. A friend could also call a national suicide hotline for instructions and help in this area. On the other hand, an individual who notices any of these symptoms should immediately seek help from his family doctor who will be able to prescribe medication or refer him to someone else who can help.
Symptoms may vary somewhat depending on the individual’s age. For example, children may simply seem unreasonably sad, adolescents may demonstrate biting anger and the elderly may have several nonspecific symptoms. However, the above depression symptoms are by far the most common complaints and should be taken seriously in anyone who has them.
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