Language is ever evolving and we’re constantly creating new words and new definitions for old words. Depression is a word that I think gets used a lot but often doesn’t apply to a situation or person. It’s become a synonym for being sad when that’s not quite true. As psychiatrist Ken Robbins from the University of Wisconsin-Madison explains:
“Sadness is an emotion, whereas depression is an illness”
Depression then could be explained as a type sadness that lasts longer than a typical emotional response. Sadness is what you feel after a terrible event. Depression is an illness that harms you for weeks after.
So how do we distinguish between being depressed or just feeling under the weather? Here are five warning signs that might point to depression being the cause and not the symptom:
1. No longer finding enjoyment in the things that once interested you.
Losing interest and enjoyment in the things that used to excite you is normally one of the first signs of depression. This can range from things like no longer wanting to play sports, losing interest in watching your favourite films or television shows or even just going out and socialising. It’s one of the biggest changes to our lifestyles but it can be very subtle in how it creeps into our lives. If you’ve noticed yourself losing interest in your hobbies, you might need to find help.
2. Irregular sleeping patterns.
Insomnia is often associated with depression, and while not getting enough sleep is certainly a symptom of depression, the opposite is also true. Spending too much time in bed can be a warning sign. Any irregular sleeping patterns should be taken as a sign that something is wrong, particularly if they last longer than two weeks. Too much or too little sleep can have massive consequences on the amount of energy we have during the day, so it’s important we keep a regular pattern and routine.
3. Anxiety and becoming ill-tempered.
Anxiety is its own issue by itself, but it’s often a symptom of depression too. It’s difficult to explain to those who don’t suffer from it, but it feels like the walls of life are slowly closing in on you all the time. It feels like there’s never enough time to properly respond to something or do anything. Often this becomes too much to handle which can lead to things like anxiety attacks, becoming short of breath, feeling flustered, dizzy, nauseous and more. Anxiety can also cause us to be very short and ill-tempered, making rash decisions or acting out on impulse and becoming irrational. If you recognise any of these feelings and reactions, you should consider talking to someone.
4. A constant sense of dread, hopelessness, and helplessness.
Not everything in our lives goes the way we want, and that’s okay. But letting that feeling override all others is a big sign of depression. Feeling like nothing will ever be okay, or nothing ever goes the way it’s supposed to can become mentally draining and can lead us to amplify our emotions. Feeling hopeless about every aspect of life is a sure-tell sign of depression and if you feel this way, seek guidance from a professional.
5. Being indecisive, lacking focus and losing concentration.
These traits on their own can be dealt with over time, but when they’re all mixed together they can lead to an unhealthy and unhappy lifestyle. If you’re struggling to make decisions while in school or at work, or if you’re finding yourself losing motivation to do simple tasks like cooking, watching television, reading or another menial task, then there might be bigger forces at play. Speak to your GP.
It’s hard writing those points because I recognise all five of them and I remember exactly how I felt when going through them. While I still see these signs in my daily life, I also know how I’m going to overcome them, which I’ll be writing about soon to help others get through them too.
Most people if not everyone will recognise and understand at least one of these signs, but that doesn’t mean everyone is depressed. Often, it’s a mixture of all of these signs, combining themselves into one larger problem that becomes a big signal for depression. While these are some of the most often signs of depression, they are not all of them. If these patterns have lasted longer than two weeks in your life, then I would advise that you go and see your doctor or GP. It’s important to catch these patterns early on, and you should deal with this sooner rather than later. Depression is a hole that is incredibly tough to climb out of, so building a ladder now means you can start to see the sunshine as quickly as possible.