Depression is something that most of us experience from time to time. Although, there are many forms of depression, some very serious and some more or less a part of life. This being the case, one should not take their depressive moods, attitudes, or states lightly.As a Christian counselor, I hear many stories of people with depression or depressive episodes who often wait too long to seek help, and thus they’ve experience many life changing and sometimes destructive things because the depression has gotten out of control.
Consequently, those who’ve struggled with depression for quite some time are often not taking care of their bodies and health, typically struggling with addictions of many kinds, and are usually not that desirable to be around because they tend to be disruptive to their families and friends. They often end up withdrawing all together, having little to no relational involvement with people.
If these situations are familiar to you, ask yourself: Do you feel hopeless and sad most of the time, or have you suddenly lost interest in the hobbies you once enjoyed? Do you have trouble hanging around friends and family? Have your sleeping and eating patterns drastically changed recently?
What is Depression?
If you have experienced these and other related feelings for the past two weeks or more, you could be under depression, a treatable mood disorder. Depression causes distressing symptoms that affect your thoughts and feelings, creating a change in your behavior and, to an extent, your personal life. It is true that sometimes we feel low and sad, but it should not last unusually longer. A consistent feeling of misery and hopelessness should be taken seriously.
Risk Factors for Depression
As discussed above, certain risk factors may increase your chances of developing depression. Depression may be triggered by chronic illnesses such as cancer, stroke, heart-related diseases, and severe pain in the body. Children who crave attention are also at higher risk of falling into depression. Avoid uncontrolled use of drugs, alcohol and other illegal substances, as they may expose you to depression.Are you constantly taking medications such as pills for sleeping disorders? They are a great risk factor for depression. Some personality traits such as being too critical of oneself, low self-esteem, too much dependence, or pessimism only makes us vulnerable to depression.
Early childhood trauma may also cause depression, especially when the body is exposed to terrifying, stressful, or fearful situations at a young age. When we go through difficult times such as financial constraints, marital complications, physical or sexual abuse, or the death of a family member, we are at higher risk of developing depression.
However, how can you tell if one is depressed? Here are a few factors.
10 Red Flags That You Could Be Suffering From Depression
As mentioned earlier, depression symptoms may present differently from one person to the other. At times, our lowest moments in life come with symptoms of depression. Below are 10 red flags that could possibly indicate that you or someone you know is under depression:
1. Feeling sad and thinking of suicide
Feeling hopeless is one of the most common ways to detect depression. When under depression, you always feel unhappy, even without reason. This feeling may also incorporate failure and dissatisfaction and may be so chronic that it would last for more than two years. Your moods will always be consistently low.
As a result of feeling empty, you will also adopt a blind belief that life won’t get any better. Thoughts of committing suicide may also accompany depression, especially among older men. You begin feeling recurrent thoughts of death or suicide attempts when depressed. In truth, suicidal thoughts are not a rational emotion; they’re a major concern that should be addressed promptly. These thoughts can easily go unnoticed if nobody is keen enough to take note.
2. Irritability and frustration
Low levels of irritability and anger can mask possible depression even without our realization.
Depression may result in severe angry outbursts or frustration, even over matters that would otherwise be considered insignificant. When we are depressed, we are likely to experience levels of frustration that make us display irritability symptoms.
If you are a man, for instance, you may suddenly become very aggressive and volatile. For a woman, depression will make you so angry to the extent of being tearful. You may experience frequent crying spells, even for no good reason.
When depressed, our natural tendency to focus on past failures, and life’s shortcomings may make us blame ourselves when things do not work out as we expected. Teenagers with depression may feel misunderstood, an act that may be written off as normal teenage behavior.
3. Loss of interest and pleasure in normal activities
At times we feel a bit more introverted than usual, but when depression creeps in, you may lose pleasure in the activities you once enjoyed, including isolating from friends and loved ones. You may no longer be interested in hobbies, sporting activities, or sexual engagements.
4. Changes in appetite
Have your eating habits changed lately? Depression may lead to loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss, or excessive eating and subsequent weight gain. When you are under depression, you may feel so miserable that you would unconsciously turn to eating as a means of finding relief. Both excessive eating and eating too little can create low energy levels and general body weakness. Any significant change in eating habits is worth investigating, as it could be pointing out to depression.
5. Changes in sleeping patterns
Depression may cause marked changes in sleeping patterns, and you may suffer from total lack of sleep, whether day or night. At times, you may wake up in the middle of the night and stay awake till morning, as tired as you may be. On the other hand, excessive sleep is also a possible symptom of depression. Suddenly, you may sleep for a longer duration and never want to get out of the bed. Change in sleeping patterns can cause fatigue and loss of concentration, as it never was your habit before.
6. Change in behavior among men, women, and children
How depression affects you and I may be different. For one, it may be mild occurrences of sadness and to another, recurring situations of a change in mood.
Men are likely to be irritable and angry. They may experience sleeping problems and lose interest in work-related activities. They may behave recklessly, including abusing alcohol and drugs. Unfortunately, many men never recognize depression.
Women have a higher rate of depression than men, majorly because of their unique life cycle and biological factors. Women under depression will often feel sad, guilty, and worthless.
Young children may pretend to be sick and refuse to go to school when depressed. Older children and teens, on the other hand, may experience anxiety, eating disorders, and resort to substance abuse.
Some other forms of depression are slightly different and may develop under unique circumstances. This may include seasonal variations from winter to summer, or having, hearing, or seeing upsetting things such as hallucinations.
7. Anxiety and slow speech
Depression causes guilt and a feeling of inability to do anything right. It makes us want to blame ourselves for being the cause of all the bad things that happen in our lives. At times, we unconsciously internalize statements such as, “It is my fault” in everything that goes wrong.
Do you find yourself suddenly unable to sit still, always agitated and consistently wringing your hands? You are so anxious that you even anticipate danger or doom when everything seems right? Maybe it is mere tension, even when there is neither impending threat nor any identifiable reason for being tense. Watch out, for you could be under depression. Moreover, your thinking may grow slow. Even speaking a single sentence may take longer than normal.
When under depression, occasional slow body movements may also occur.
8. Retarded concentration and decision-making
Depression may also affect our concentration span and difficulty remembering past events or making current decisions. We may not even remember events or dates discussed with others just a few moments ago. There can be memory issues causing difficulties in maintaining even day-to-day activities.
9. Physical and emotional complications
If left untreated, depression is a severe mental disorder with risks of physical and emotional complications. Conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, asthma, obesity, cancer, and heart diseases may get worse due to depression. You may experience severe pain and physical illness such as back pains, chest pains, stomachaches, and severe headaches.
At times, there may be anxiety, fear, and isolation, family setups may crumble causing marriage conflicts, relationship problems, and difficulty keeping up with family responsibilities. Some may even resort to drug and substance abuse as a means of trying to shield problems. Worst of all, premature death may eventually occur when other health conditions deteriorate.
10. Lack of energy and unexplained physical pain all over the body
Depression causes a feeling of being tired and lacking energy all the time. Even simple tasks such as house chores may seem to require more effort from us to perform. When fatigued, we generally become reluctant, and show a sense of both apathy and withdrawal.
In some cases, depression may be the reason behind unexplained cramps, persistent headaches, body pain, or digestive-related complications. Among children, depression also causes aches and pains that interfere with healthy learning at school.
Is Depression A Treatable Condition?
The first step is to visit your nearest health care provider and mental health professional such as a counselor or psychotherapist when you notice the red flags. Once diagnosed, depression can be treated. The doctor may do an overall physical evaluation and ask you questions regarding personal health. This may reveal any underlying physical health problem likely to cause depression.A psychological evaluation may be conducted with an emphasis on your thoughts, feelings, and general behavior. You’ll have an opportunity to talk about your condition and through psychotherapy, you’ll learn to adjust to difficulties, set goals, find solutions to problems, regain satisfaction and control, as well as coping with any negative triggers of depression. In addition, laboratory tests may be done to ascertain that the body functions normally.
Once diagnosed, recovering from depression may require action, yet taking action while under depression may equally be a challenge. Taking positive steps day by day, however, may help you cope with the situation. The following four tips are based on a comprehensive approach to help you get support, make lifestyle changes, and reverse any negative thoughts to overcome depression:
1. Stay connected to others
Depression creates a tendency to withdraw and isolate oneself from the company of others. Social support is important to ensure recovery from depression. Staying connected to other people including your church, faith community, family, and friends will make the world a different place with revamped moods and feelings. When there’s nobody to turn to, it is never too late to build new relationships and build a support network. Find support from a person who makes you feel safe and one with a good listening capability.You may also find ways to support others. While it is nice to receive support, a bigger boost also results from supporting others. You may thus form a group where you’ll have a chance to listen to your peers going through similar struggles, which may validate your experiences and facilitate building your self-esteem. Often, group members are at different points in depression, so it’s a chance to get tips from both someone in the trenches as well as someone who has worked through challenging problems.
2. Learn and engage in activities that make you feel good
Education and learning about depression empowers you and motivates recovery through an understanding of the various depressing conditions and ways to overcome. While it is technically impossible to force yourself into having fun, you can push yourself into doing things that relax and energize you. You can spend time caring for your favorite pet, embark on your former sporting activity or hobby, hang out with friends, and engage in music, art, writing, or a nature walk.
3. Take care of your health
Healthy living plays a significant role in mental health. Ensure you are physically active, eating healthy, jogging, walking, or gardening to keep your physical and psychological health in check. This will also keep you physically and mentally engaged to refrain from negative thoughts of sadness and loneliness.
Also, you may embark on a healthy sleep schedule, particularly aiming at eight hours of sleep. It is important to practice a daily relaxation schedule to help relieve symptoms of depression. This may involve muscle relaxation, deep breathing, or even meditation. In addition, exposure to enough sunlight is a good relief for depression. At least 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight every day can make a big difference.
4. Observe any medication schedules
Watch out for warning signs and possible triggers of depression and seek help. When diagnosed and under treatment, depression symptoms may relapse if medication, psychotherapy, and medical appointments are not adhered to. Stick to your medication schedule where applicable and refrain from alcohol and substance abuse, as they may worsen depression conditions, making them even more resistant to treatment.
The bottom line is depression can leave you feeling like you’ll never get out from under that dark shadow. If this situation is left untreated, it can transition to more advanced stages and worsen over time. Luckily, it is a treatable condition that can guarantee happy, healthy lives for people with depression. If you notice any of the above-mentioned red flags, always seek prompt treatment, as it is the surest way to see an improvement.
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