All of us feel sad and depressed from time to time. Things happen in our lives that trigger these feelings. And these feelings are, in fact, quite normal and natural. But sometimes, one can feel sad and depressed for extended periods. When this occurs, the possibility of having full-fledged depression becomes a serious concern. Not only can depression significantly impact your quality of life, but it can also lead to other health conditions. Therefore, knowing the signs of depression is important.
In the U.S., over 17 million people suffer from depression. However, since many fail to recognize the telltale signs of depression, this figure is likely much higher. But when does feeling sad and depressed actually become depression? Fortunately, there are guidelines to help you identify if you have the symptoms and signs. And if they are present, you can seek the help you need to get on the road to recovery.
What Exactly is Depression?
Part of the problem in understanding depression is in the term itself. In everyday language, many use the term “depression” to describe any sad feelings. Likewise, sometimes things occur that should make us feel sad and depressed. The loss of a loved one, a loss of health, and other life events naturally trigger these emotions. But depression as a health condition is more than merely feeling sad. That is why knowing the actual signs of depression is crucial.
Health professionals use the term “major depression” to describe the actual clinical condition. In doing so, professionals can clearly establish that the signs have been present for some time. While life events can trigger depression, some individuals suffer from depression because of genetic risks or brain chemistry imbalances. Knowing the exact cause can be difficult. But despite these challenges, health professionals have identified signs that are considered reliable and can be referred to when making a diagnosis.
What Are the Signs of Depression?
Certainly, feeling sad is a common factor of depression. However, other signs must also be present in order to confirm you have the actual condition. Health professionals have a checklist of factors that they look at before making a diagnosis. In fact, of the eight signs of depression possible, at least five must be present. And of these five, one must be either sad and possess depressed feelings or a lack of interest in the activities one usually enjoys. The following are the eight signs of depression you should know.
- Sad and depressed feelings or feeling hopeless
- A loss of interest and/or pleasure in normal activities you enjoy
- A chronic loss of energy and feelings of fatigue
- A significant change in your weight and/or appetite (either increased or decreased)
- Slowness in thought and/or movement that is noticeable
- Feelings of self-blame, guilt, and worthlessness
- Reduced ability to concentrate or pay attention
- Recurring thoughts of harming yourself in some way
In addition to these signs, other factors may also exist. For example, changes in your sleep-wake cycle may occur and involve either insomnia or excessive sleep. Also, symptoms of frustration, agitation and nervousness may also be present. Plus, unexplained physical complaints, like headache or joint aches, could be related. If any of these additional signs of depression are present, they should be communicated with your health professional.
What to Do If Signs of Depression Exist
If you feel sad and have signs of depression, discussing these issues with your health professional is vital. This is especially true if your symptoms interfere with work, school or even your relationships. In addition to assessing you for signs of depression, your health professional can arrange various treatments. These typically include seeing a therapist and may involve medication.
However, there are several things that you can do yourself to prevent depression or improve its symptoms. For example, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet can reduce sad and depressed feelings. Also, it is essential to make sure you get adequate rest and sleep. And of course, exercise naturally prevents sad and depressed feelings by boosting your self-esteem and invigorating your body. These strategies—as well as other various stress management techniques—can help you greatly in your efforts to fight depression.
Regardless of whether you know for sure you have depression or not, getting professional help is essential. Making the distinction between sad and depressed feelings and depression can be challenging at times. Likewise, getting the right treatment is imperative in helping you feel better as quickly as possible. Ultimately, that is the goal, so you can enjoy the bold and full life you were intended to lead!