What are the signs and symptoms of depression?
While being sad every now and again is part of normal life, experiencing persistent and overwhelming feelings of sadness or hopelessness isn’t something that you should struggle with alone.
If you think that you may be depressed, we have outlined the signs of this mental health condition, and given information on the support that is available at Priory.
Signs that you may be suffering from depression
If you think you are depressed, it is important to know that symptoms differ from person-to-person. Some common signs include the following:
Persistent sadness, worthlessness and hopelessness
You may constantly feel down and believe that there is no point in doing anything. It is likely that you aren’t functioning well on a day-to-day basis, where you have little motivation to see family and friends, lead a healthy lifestyle or go to work and perform your job.
Your appetite changes
As depression can cause you to feel withdrawn, your appetite may have decreased and you may be losing weight. Being preoccupied with negative thoughts can leave you with no interest in food.
Depression can also have the opposite effect on your appetite and cause you to overeat. Feeling sad, pessimistic or low about the future can result in you turning to food for comfort.
Your sleep routine is interrupted
Sleep may have become a comfort and an escape from feeling low. Your lack of energy may also be leaving you constantly tired, where you need more sleep and find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning.
People with depression can also struggle with insomnia, restlessness and interrupted sleep, as thoughts stop them from being able to relax and sleep.
Both these situations can cause you to become tired which, when heightened by the sadness that you feel, leaves you without energy and feeling drained.
Becoming increasingly irritable
You may have started to become more annoyed at minor frustrations and find that you are angrier than usual towards those closest to you. As you are dealing with difficult emotions, you will have less patience and when you feel negative, you are more likely to react negatively to things that happen.
Being unable to focus or concentrate
Becoming more forgetful and indecisive can also be symptoms of depression. With your mind focused on your sadness, your concentration and decision-making skills become impaired which can lead you to make unwise decisions.
You turn to short-term boosts
You may have started to use alcohol or other substances in an attempt to numb your thoughts and feelings. An over-reliance on the internet, for social media, shopping or gambling can also be a sign that you are trying to escape your thoughts and feelings, even momentarily.
You don’t enjoy things that once made you happy
Feeling demotivated can cause you to bypass catch ups with friends, ignore gym sessions, and cancel plans you’d made, as you feel unable to get any pleasure from these experiences.
This may have led you to become more isolated and more reliant on a hideaway from other people, where you don’t go out as much and spend more time at home.
Symptoms of different forms of depression
Depression can make you feel many difficult emotions including anger, anxiety, guilt, confusion and emotional exhaustion, as well as sadness. It can also leave you feeling vulnerable and tearful.
There are different types of depression, and it is important to know that each type has different symptoms and impacts people in unique ways. These include:
- Severe depression - you experience significant fatigue, no longer find pleasure in activities that you once enjoyed and feel as though you have lost the capacity to experience joy. Symptoms can be extreme and often have a profound impact on your ability to function
- Severe depression with psychotic symptoms – you also experience hallucinations or have delusional thoughts
- Moderately severe depression – you experience symptoms similar to people with severe depression, but are likely to be less distant and may see small improvements from one day to another
- Bipolar depression – you experience episodes of elation and depression of some duration, causing you to have a lot of energy and periods of grandiose thinking
- Dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder – you have chronic periods of depressive moods that can last for several years, but the symptoms allow you to function somewhat
- Recurrent depression – you experience repeated episodes of depression, but don’t have a history of having independent episodes of heightened energy or mood elevation
What is causing me to feel depressed?
There are a number of factors that can increase the likelihood of developing depression. These include the following:
- Going through a stressful experience like a divorce, bereavement, difficulties at work, abuse or social isolation
- Alcohol or drug use (including prescription drugs)
- Suffering from chronic physical health conditions such as cancer
- Having a family history of depression or mental health conditions
- Having a history of other mental health conditions
It’s important to remember that depression can occur for many reasons and there are many triggers.
The importance of self-care
Depression may make you want to be alone and not do that much. But it is important to push yourself and be proactive to help yourself feel better:
- Go outside, get some fresh air and do some exercise – this can help boost your endorphins, your ‘happy’ brain chemicals
- Maintain structure – set yourself a positive daily schedule, which may include time for exercise, cooking and activities you usually enjoy – don’t stay in bed all day
- Try to eat healthily throughout the day – evidence suggests that eating foods rich in folic acid such as avocado and spinach, as well as foods rich in omega-3 like salmon and tuna can help ease symptoms
- Don’t use alcohol excessively or drugs – people try to mask or manage negative feelings with alcohol and drugs, but this is counterproductive and should be avoided
- Establish a good bedtime routine – try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Also avoid napping and make your bedroom a tech-free space, so you are away from screens before you sleep
- Document your thoughts and feelings – before you go to sleep at night, write down three positive things about yourself and reflect on them when you wake up the next day. Also, jot down where you want to be emotionally, mentally and physically, and note the small steps you can take to get there
Support is available to you
If you think you are depressed, the most important thing you can do is seek support. This can prevent symptoms from worsening and gives you the opportunity to get your life back on track.
Firstly, talk to a trusted friend or relative to try to understand why you feel this way. Have you gone through any big life changes? Are you feeling lonely? Or do you suffer from a chronic illness or have chronic pain? Thinking about the possible causes can to set you up on your journey to recovery.
Also, visit your GP. They will be able to offer counselling or refer you to an NHS or private specialist such as Priory. You can also contact Priory directly and our team will be able to talk you through the steps you should take.
At Priory Hospitals and Wellbeing Centres, the treatments that we currently use to help people with depression include:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) - this allows you to tackle your negative thoughts so you can challenge your negative assumptions and think in a more balanced way
- Antidepressant medication – these are typically used alongside CBT, but can also be the first line of treatment in particular circumstances
Our depression treatment can be given on both residential and outpatient basis. Your symptoms, needs and circumstances will be taken into consideration to determine the right course of action for you.