Sometimes called the “common cold of mental illness,” depression affects millions of people at some point in their lives. Some will experience major symptoms, while others will experience effects on the mild side; either way, the symptoms can often be difficult to identify.
Part of the reason depression is hard to diagnose is that our society still places a negative stigma around it. This negative stigma can then lead people to deny that they are in fact experiencing any symptoms of depression at all. Like anything else in life, ignoring it won’t make it go away. In fact, it will likely make it worse, if you avoid getting help to address your depression.
The following are just a handful of symptoms those struggling with depression will face.
Some people explain depression as the feeling of living inside a black hole. Others describe a lack of motivation and everything they need to do feels like a bigger effort than it should be. Most people no longer have an interest in the things they once loved. The feeling of numbness is so strong that people often feel separated from themselves, like a prisoner in their own body, or even outside their own body. This brings up feelings of “what’s wrong with me?” but oftentimes, there is no motivation present to counter or change these thoughts. Lack of motivation feels like there is no “wind in your sails” to move you along. You may want to do something, but the ability to motivate to make changes is difficult.
Feeling disconnected or detached from yourself is also a theme reported by some people with depression. Not only do they not feel like themselves, they feel like they are just watching themselves from the outside, as if they’re no longer an active participant in their own life. Depersonalization and derealization are forms of dissociation that are most often seen when someone has experienced trauma, but having emotional and physical numbness, feeling foggy-headed, or in a dreamlike state, can also happen with depression.
Intense sadness for inexplicable reasons
Some people develop depression due to the aftermath of a traumatic event, such as the death of a family member, or the loss of a job, relationship, or friendship, etc. For others, depression seems to appear out of nowhere, and there is no clear explanation as to why the depressed mood has surfaced.
Depression comes in waves of emotional fluctuation and oftentimes hits like a brick without warning. Do you find yourself crying for reasons unknown? Experiencing bursts of frustration or anger without any warranted explanation? These are common signs of depression that cannot just go away by practicing daily gratitude or by “snapping out of it.”
Depression causes not only physical exhaustion but emotional and mental exhaustion, as well. This feeling of extreme fatigue arises because of the mental toll that depression takes on you. Many people who suffer from depression often have anxiety as well, which leads to an interference of sleep patterns. Oversleeping and insomnia are both commonly associated with depression and anxiety.
The inability to get out of bed is in part because of genuine fatigue, but also due to a lack of mental motivation and thoughts of “why should I even bother?” For those struggling with depression, the act of going through an average day takes a lot of energy, both physically and mentally.
Manifestation of physical symptoms
While depression is a mental disorder, its symptoms can display themselves physically. Because mental disorders and physical disorders don’t always cross paths, when physical symptoms are present, the notion of depression may be dismissed.
Nausea, joint and muscle aches and pains, headaches, digestive problems, and chest tightness or pain are all common physical manifestations of depression. Depression is an all-encompassing disorder so it’s no wonder that physical symptoms accompany it, as well.
Inability to take care of yourself
Shame or self-criticism around the ability to care for yourself is often experienced by people who are depressed. Be kind to yourself and have self-compassion for what you are going through. You wouldn’t be embarrassed by your inabilities due do a broken arm. You do not need to feel bad about yourself because of your depression either. Not showering or practicing basic hygiene, no motivation to clean your house or do laundry, changes in exercise and eating habits, are all common symptoms of depression. Recognize them and talk to a therapist or your physician about what you are experiencing.
It’s important to remember that depression doesn’t look the same on everyone. There are other symptoms – bigger and smaller than those mentioned here. It’s also important to remember that you matter and that your feelings and emotions are valid. Seeking help from a mental health professional for your depression is good self-care. A therapist can help you understand what is happening, and help you toward taking positive steps to treat your depression and live a happier and fulfilling life.