Meds

Signs You’re Depressed — and Don’t Know It

The beginning of the year is a bummer for many — the combination of dark days, no more holidays to look forward to and never-ending bad weather make this time of year ripe for Seasonal Affected Disorder, or clinical depression with a seasonal onset.
 
 

The major symptoms of SAD and clinical depression are the same, Dr. Brandon Gibb, a psychology professor at Binghamton University, told weather.com. You’ll experience an enduring sadness most of the day every day for at least two weeks. (It’s this duration that separates true clinical depression from a few sad moods.) You’ll also experience a loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy.

“The other really key thing is [depression] starts to get in the way of things: work, your ability to do your job, your relationships with people,” he said.

But for some people, there are more subtle signs, counterintuitive to traditional depressive symptoms. Even if you’re working hard at work and going out with your friends, you still could be depressed, in fact.

  Some people find it hard to accept compliments when they’re depressed or when their depression is starting to return. One explanation: A compliment disrupts a depressed person’s low self-esteem, so he or she refuses to accept it. Feeling self-centered (when’s the last time you complimented someone else?) is also a sign someone is retreating toward depression.

 

 
 

The beginning of the year is a bummer for many — the combination of dark days, no more holidays to look forward to and never-ending bad weather make this time of year ripe for Seasonal Affected Disorder, or clinical depression with a seasonal onset.

The major symptoms of SAD and clinical depression are the same, Dr. Brandon Gibb, a psychology professor at Binghamton University, told weather.com. You’ll experience an enduring sadness most of the day every day for at least two weeks. (It’s this duration that separates true clinical depression from a few sad moods.) You’ll also experience a loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy.

“The other really key thing is [depression] starts to get in the way of things: work, your ability to do your job, your relationships with people,” he said.

But for some people, there are more subtle signs, counterintuitive to traditional depressive symptoms. Even if you’re working hard at work and going out with your friends, you still could be depressed, in fact.
 

Some people find it hard to accept compliments when they’re depressed or when their depression is starting to return. One explanation: A compliment disrupts a depressed person’s low self-esteem, so he or she refuses to accept it. Feeling self-centered (when’s the last time you complimented someone else?) is also a sign someone is retreating toward depression.

One major symptom of depression is feeling withdrawn from social situations, Dr. Gibb said. Part of that may include a difficulty communicating with others or expressing yourself, particularly in social situations.

People with depression are so likely to have trouble making decisions big and small that it’s considered a hallmark of the condition by the American Psychological Association.

 

Whether it’s an inability to sleep or the desire to sleep all the time, a shift in your nightly routine could mean you’re depressed.

Changes in eating patterns often come with sudden weight loss or gain — another common symptom of depression.

 

When you’re depressed, you are typically uninterested in activities you used to enjoy. These feelings of disinterest or listlessness are often accompanied by lagging energy.

Irritability is a common symptom of depression in children, Dr. Gibb said. "Instead of seeming sad, kids may seem more irritable than usual," he said.

 

These are avoidance techniques — instead of engaging with their lives and relationships, people who are depressed often recede into distractions that don’t require much focus or energy. One Harvard University study also found that people who watch more than three hours of TV a day are more likely to be depressed.

If you’re skipping out on social events and coming up with fake excuses as to why you can’t make it, this is a huge warning sign, according to Dr. Gibbs. If you notice this sign, make yourself get out and do the things you used to enjoy, Dr. Gibbs suggested. It may help.

When you’re depressed, it might be hard for you to laugh. But laughter is great medicine for lessening depression symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. Laughter also activates your body’s ability to respond to stress, which may help ease your symptoms.

 

Pamela Milam, a therapist who treats people with depression, said that many of her clients say they notice a change in driving patterns when their depression returns. Noticing these day-to-day changes can be helpful for some people. "Sometimes a zoomed-in view of an individual’s experience might be more instructive than simply looking at a vague, academic outline," 

 

Suicide ideation is common in people who are depressed. This is a serious symptom of the disease and should be treated right away with the help of a therapist, Dr. Gibb said.

 

Although it might seem like a depressed person is more likely to be unable to function at work, some go in the opposite direction. "What you’ll often notice is that people can be really depressed, but they’ll be able to hold it together, and use work, kids or their family as a distraction," Dr. Gibbs said. "They try to fill up their days with other things, so they don’t sit down quietly to think because that’s when the depressive thoughts and feelings come in."

 

Just as some use work as a way to distract from their depressive symptoms, other individuals might use excessive socializing to prevent sad, depressive thoughts.

Drinking or drug use is a common way many people cope with depression. If you recognize this pattern in yourself, "engage with friends or family or hobbies or interests," Dr. Gibb said. "That will lead to better long-term outcomes."

 

A lack of focus, particularly at work, is common in people with depression.

Because executing simple tasks can become incredibly difficult to a person with depression, this is a warning sign to watch for, Milam said. When day-to-day tasks start to fall by the wayside, that’s a sign depression is flaring.

To someone who is depressed, the world can literally look flat or gray, according to the Harvard Health Letter. Depression may actually affect how the eyes function — altering visual perception in a way that actually makes the world look gray, according to the November 2010 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.

 

 

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