Signs and Symptoms of Depression
When a person is clinically depressed, the condition is serious. Many erroneously think of depression as a case of the blues, a temporary event that is usually in response to a significant disappointment or loss. But major depression is mood state that far exceeds the short-lived phase of sadness that most people experience as a regular part of life. When the symptoms of the episode persist for more than two weeks, it is considered clinical depression.
Depression is a medical condition that can manifest itself just once or can last a lifetime, but can be managed with medication to a great extent. It affects a person’s mood, behaviors, feelings and thoughts—even physical health. If not treated, depression can become debilitating, with depressive episodes lasting anywhere from a few months to many years.
In the United States, depression affects about seven percent of the adult population, or about 25 million people a year. Of those, only about 50 percent will ever seek treatment. Without treatment, the severity of symptoms and frequency of the depressive events tend to escalate. As devastating as this mental health disorder is, in most cases it can be treated. Improved psychotropic drugs and a better understanding of the biological elements of the disease are enabling mental health providers to offer more effective treatment.
Conditions of Depressive Disorder
Depression can cause significant changes in a person’s daily functions, disrupting normal behaviors. These signs of a depressive condition are:
- Persistent sadness: The most prevailing symptom of depression is the mood change that culminates in chronic feelings of sadness and sorrow.
- Sleep disturbances: This can manifest itself in various ways, including difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep and sleeping excessively. Insomnia is common during a depressive event, as thought processing about the core issue or even often happens during the night. Also, a desire to not get out of bed in the morning is common. Feelings of hopelessness and dark despair can make someone with depression feel there is nothing to look forward to so they want to hide under the covers to escape the pain.
- Changes in appetite: Some individuals suffering from depression will overeat, seeking solace in comfort foods. Others may lose their appetite, having trouble even swallowing food. Due to these changes in eating habits, weight gain or weight loss can result.
- Loss of interest in normal activities and hobbies: Due to perpetual feelings of sadness, activities that once brought pleasure, including sex, are no longer sought.
- Fatigue: A general lackadaisical demeanor is common with depression. Lacking energy or enthusiasm for daily life translates into chronic fatigue and listlessness.
- Thoughts of suicide: People battling depression often wrestle with suicidal ideation. Because the picture they have painted of themselves and their lives is so bleak, they begin to believe that they would be better off dead. Often, depression is the result of a person’s life spiraling downward; loss of a significant relationship, a job, death of a loved one, serious health problems and financial difficulties are common conditions associated with depression. Suicidal thoughts must be taken seriously.
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism: Because the problems seem insurmountable, a person suffering from depression may become despairing. They may see no solution to their problems, have lost all hope and envision the future pessimistically.
- Poor concentration: The inability to concentrate or make decisions is another aspect of depression. Remembering details and lacking follow through on important matters are common with depression.
- Irritability and agitation: Feelings of anxiety and restlessness can accompany the other symptoms of depression. Caused by a sense of losing control over one’s life can lead a depressed person to feel irritable.
- Physical signs: The mind and body are intrinsically connected. When suffering from depression, one may have aches and pains, digestive problems, headaches, abdominal cramps among other physical maladies.
Substance abuse often accompanies depression, as alcohol or drugs are used to self-medicate the pain. These substances can make the depression symptoms worse, often exacerbating suicidal thoughts or leading to attempts at suicide. When both clinical depression and substance abuse are present, this is causal for rehabilitation treatment and dual diagnosis, or co-occurring condition treatment. Co-occurring conditions that include depressive disorders are among the most common forms of the problem.
Depression is a serious illness that could become life threatening if not treated. The most important thing a person can do is get a diagnosis and treatment for the condition. If you or your loved one is experiencing ongoing symptoms of depression, please contact the Depression Centers of California for help at 855-678-0400.