Depression is a mental illness that affects your physical, emotional and social well-being. According to the DSM (The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), depression is a mood disorder that affects how you feel, think, and behave.
Research shows that depression causes biochemical changes in both the brain and the body, and it often triggers a host of physical imbalances as well. It affects how you function in your everyday life and can even make life seem not worth living.
Clinical depression has clear symptoms that go beyond the regular blues. Whether these symptoms are present in oneself or a loved one, it's critical to understand that these symptoms are not signs of weakness, but responses that arose in response to difficult situations and other inherent factors.
Here are the symptoms of clinical depression:
1. Feeling persistently sad and tearing up frequently
Everyone goes through days when we feel particularly vulnerable and even the smallest of things can get to us. But if these episodes continue for more than just a few days, and you feel a huge, unexplainable pain or "emotional heaviness" within, it could be the first sign that your low mood could be a sign of a disorder.
2. Loss of joy and pleasure
This sign is subtle to detect, but more alarming. Have you lost interest in your favorite hobbies, sports or interests? A clear way to differentiate everyday sadness from depression is to look at your happiness level. Do you still take delight in things you enjoyed before?
If you were someone who enjoyed a good laugh with friends or taking morning strolls, do these activities seem meaningless or draining? If fun seems draining or pointless, it's a serious concern.
3. Feeling hopeless about life
After a bad day at work or an argument with your partner, it is normal to feel dejected and lost. But if there is a larger sense of hopelessness that looms over your head for no specific reason and you catch yourself wondering what the point of life is, pay attention to where this stems from. A recurrent pattern of negative thinking/feeling, caused by depression, could be a reason for this.
4. Angry outbursts and irritability
Reacting to the smallest of triggers, getting irritable with loved ones or colleagues, being triggered by small incidents on the road or a store, and finding it hard to NOT react with anger or annoyance signal that your brain is overwhelmed and finding it impossible to cope with everyday triggers.
5. Sleep disturbances
This includes insomnia, where you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, having disturbed sleep or nightmares through the night. Some people tend to sleep too much through the day as a way to cope with depression.
Feeling physically exhausted without any medical causes is a warning sign that there is a severe imbalance in the system. To rule out the possibility of physical illnesses, it's good to get a checkup from a physician. If you lack energy, feel drained through the day, or find that small tasks take a lot of effort, it's possible depression is affecting your energy, hormone, and stress levels in the body.
7. Appetite change
This can be either be reduced appetite leading to weight loss or increased cravings for food causing weight gain. Again, ruling out physical ailments as the cause of appetite change is important. Doctors focusing on diet and its impact on mental health recommend certain foods to increase the production of mood-elevating chemicals.
8. Physical pain or aches
Unexplained and frequent aches that do not have medical triggers, such as back pain or headaches, signal an imbalance in the mind-body continuum. More and more research revealed that the boundaries along this continuum aren't as defined as we earlier believed them to be. Which means, your mood affects your body functioning, which in turn impacts your mental health. A physical pain is your body's way of signaling that there is an emotional imbalance that needs your attention.
Feeling edgy and restless often, finding it hard to relax and constantly worrying about real or plausible situations are signs that anxiety has gotten to you. During a regular week, how often do you find yourself completely present and at ease with yourself and the situation? If this seems like a near impossibility, it's a sign that anxiety has made your system go into an auto-pilot mode, keeping you in a constant state of "flight-or-fight."
10. Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
This symptom is likely to occur when the condition has escalated, but subtle differences can be detected even in the initial stages. There is no standard measure for what is slow. If you find that anything that was faster to do earlier or easier for you before is now taking more time and effort, that's a sign you should pay attention to.
11. Frequently feeling worthless or guilty
Everyone goes through periods of self-doubt when we question our self-worth and ability to cope with tough situations. However, constantly fixating on past failures, indulging in self-blame and feeling worthless or undeserving could be possible symptoms of a more serious concern.
12. Cognitive troubles
Difficulty in thinking (clouded or hazy thoughts), concentrating (finding it hard to focus on one thing), making decisions (unable to be objective or decisive), and remembering things (memory concerns) indicate mental stress or an imbalance.
13. Recurrent thoughts about death
Frequently thinking about death and obsessing over the pointlessness of life is the first alarm sign of self-harm. Having suicidal thoughts, considering suicide, or taking risks that puts one in danger (rash driving, drug overdose, walking on the wrong lane etc.) are symptoms that depression is clouding your judgment and putting your life at risk.
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