What’s the Idea?
Depression symptoms are common – globally, 264 million+ people suffer. If you can spot the symptoms sooner, they are easier to treat.
What’s the story
I myself have suffered from depression (and anxiety, and suicidal thoughts) several times in my life.
It’s not nice (to put it mildly) and can turn your life upside-down, sometimes out of the blue.
Over the years I have learned coping mechanisms and also developed a preventative self-care routine.
But early on, when I started to have depressive episodes, I didn’t always recognise the symptoms.
So I would get really bad, to the point where I couldn’t function, before I realised I needed to do something about it.
And of course, the longer you leave depression symptoms, the harder it is to get rid of them.
By writing this page, I hope that I can help people recognise symptoms of depression sooner, particularly if they haven’t suffered from it before.
Depression is a serious illness that can lead to death (by suicide).
It’s not something that you can just ‘snap out of’, so we should all treat it with respect.
People should do this because…?
It’s important to keep an eye on your mental health – even if you haven’t suffered from depression before.
A serious bout of depression can disrupt your work life, family life, and longer-term health, as well as making things inside your head pretty unbearable.
Especially in the Coronavirus era, when we’re all more isolated and restricted in what we can do, depression could easily creep up, without us really understanding what is happening.
How do you do it?
Depression can present itself in a number of ways, and the symptoms can be different for men, women, and younger people.
Differences between men and women have been shown to be influenced by how genes and hormones work in each sex.
(You can find out more here).
This means that if you suspect someone close to you of being depressed, you may need to take into account their gender and age.
(See my Stuffer page: Help someone with depression).
The main symptoms of depression are considered to be:
- Loss of interest and enjoyment in life
- Reduced energy and lethargy
- Poor concentration
- Disturbed sleep and appetite
- Loss of sex drive
- Feelings of guilt and low self-worth
- Persistent negative thoughts
- A sense of hopelessness
- Overwhelming sadness
However people can have all sorts of other symptoms, including physical ones, like headaches or an upset stomach.
It’s important to differentiate between a more serious bout of depression and temporary low mood.
Typically, if your symptoms have persisted for 2 weeks or more and are reasonably severe, then you are considered ‘persistently’ or ‘clinically’ depressed.
This means you should seek treatment.
(See my Stuffer page: Treat depression)
Low mood, or feeling ‘blue’ can often be lifted by indulging in some self-care or doing something you love.
However, if you find you are having more frequent episodes of low mood, or they are becoming harder to get rid of, then you should be on the alert.
It could be a signal that you are sliding into a more serious depression and should try to take preventative action as soon as possible.
Depression symptoms in women
Women seem to suffer from depression more than men, which is attributal to genetic, hormonal, and societal differences.
However we should also consider that depression is almost certainly under-reported by men, who tend to be less comfortable talking about their mental health.
There are certain times in a woman’s life when depressive symptoms are more likely to appear:
- During the menstrual cycle
- After giving birth
- During peri-menopause
So it’s good to be more vigilant at these times (whilst also recognising that depressive symptoms can hit at any time).
For women (without wanting to generalise), depression can commonly trigger the following behaviours:
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
These behaviours can be difficult for others in the household to deal with as they can be fairly disruptive.
It’s important for family members and friends to try to maintain patience and empathy, otherwise the situation can be made worse.
Depression symptoms in men
Because men are often taught to ‘man up’ from an early age (unfortunately in my view), they tend to be less comfortable talking about the symptoms of depression.
This means that men can often display very different depressive behaviours.
- Being irritable and/or aggressive
- Working compulsively
- Isolating themselves from friends and family
- Refusing to talk about what they are going through
- Drinking more than normal
- Disappearing for periods of time
- Engaging in high risk activities
You can read more about depression in men here.
If you are a man experiencing depressive symptoms, the most important thing you can do is find someone you can open up to – it could be a friend, colleague, or your GP, for example.
There is no shame in having depression – in fact, in the Coronavirus era, it’s more and more a fact of life.
Whilst fewer men have depression than women, a far higher percentage go on to kill themselves.
Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 in the UK.
So it’s really important you take it seriously, and please take heart, because there are lots of ways to manage depression and the vast majority of people successfully overcome it.
Depression symptoms in children and teens
It can be particularly hard to spot signs of depression in young people, often because they are unable or unwilling to articulate what is happening to them, or because mood swings are seen as a part of growing up.
Particular things to look out for are:
- School or college grades getting significantly worse
- ‘Problem’ behaviour – fighting, or disrupting class
- Falling out with friends
- Refusing to talk or engage
- Not washing and/or wearing dirty clothes
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Evidence of self-harm
- Drug or alcohol use
In addition, depressed children often display physical symptoms, like stomach upsets, aches and pains, and headaches.
If you suspect your child is depressed it’s really important you speak to them straight away and encourage them to open up.
You can find more advice on how to approach the conversation here.
Link between depression and anxiety
A lot of people, of all ages, experience anxiety symptoms alongside their depression.
This is a particularly cruel combination and should be taken very seriously.
You can find out more about anxiety symptoms in my Stuffer page: Recognise anxiety symptoms.
What to do if you think you are depressed
If you recognise any of the above symptoms and behaviours in yourself or someone close to you, please refer to my other Stuffer pages for what to do next: