We all feel sad sometimes. When something challenging happens, feeling down for a while is part of processing the resulting emotions. But, feeling sad is different from having depression. Depression is a prolonged feeling of deep sadness accompanied by a disinterest in things that usually make you happy. When you’re depressed, the sadness isn’t always connected to an upsetting life event. That doesn’t mean it isn’t real or personally impactful.
If you think you might have depression, you’re not alone. One in four Canadians will experience a period of depression that requires treatment once in their life.The silver lining is that there are lots of ways to get help for depression. If you’re wondering whether you might have depression, see if any of these warning signs sound familiar.
1. Trouble sleeping
Trouble sleeping and depression coexist in two ways. People with insomnia are much more likely to develop depression over time than people without sleep difficulties. On the other hand, trouble sleeping is a symptom of depression. Because they’re so closely linked, the root cause and the symptom are hard to differentiate. Regardless of which comes first, trouble sleeping causes mood disturbances and is a common sign of depression.
2. Loss of interest in things you usually like
It’s normal for the things you’re interested in to change over time. We all grow out of hobbies and interests. But everyone has long standing hobbies — maybe you cook or love to jog. When you stop doing those things because they don’t feel good anymore, it could be a warning sign. Loss of interest stops keeps people from socializing or showing up for work. If you’ve been feeling this way for two weeks or more, speak to a doctor or therapist.
3. Appetite changes
Some people with depression experience weight loss due to a lack of appetite. The opposite can also be true, and a person will overeat causing weight gain. If you’re experiencing unexplained fluctuations in your bodyweight, consider whether the changes could be a red flag for your mental health.
4. Emotional outbursts
Sadness and melancholy are two well known aspects of depression. Studies show that anger is connected to depression too. Men are especially likely to feel moody and irritable when they’re depressed. Since depression is a mood disorder, it prevents you from processing and expressing emotions in a healthy way.
Lethargy, simply put, is a lack of energy. When you’re depressed, you feel lethargic even if you haven’t been physically exerting yourself. Lethargy is noticeable both physically and mentally. People with depression often report:
- Feeling tired
- Slowed movement
- Poor concentration
- Slowed thinking
- Slowed speech
6. Thoughts of death
When your outlook is clouded by sadness thoughts of death sometimes come up. In some severe cases, depression can lead to suicide. If death or dying has been on your mind, remember that the feelings you’re having are momentary. Suicide is a permanent response to a temporary problem.
People who feel suicidal require immediate help from a therapist or care team. If you feel suicidal then reach out to a friend or crisis hotline, or present to your local hospital emergency room.
7. Risky behavior
Risky behavior looks different for everyone, but the core driver is the same. It happens when you take unnecessary risks, often putting yourself in harm’s way. Risky behaviours can be relieving in the moment because they provide a distraction from painful thoughts and emotions. But, the rewards are short lived, and the dangers can be great. Examples of risky behavior include:
- Unprotected sex
- Speeding while driving
- Drug or alcohol misuse
- Fighting or violence
8. Substance misuse
Abusing drugs or alcohol is a form of self-medication. It provides a temporary escape from feelings of sadness and emptiness. Over time, excessively drinking or using drugs can actually make mental illness worse. Overconsumption is dangerous for both the physical and mental health of someone with depression.
9. Unexplained pain
When you feel happy, you might get butterflies in your stomach. Negative emotions have an effect on your physical body too. If you’ve been feeling bodily aches and pains and you’re not sure why, it may be a reflection of what’s going on inside your head. Mental illness translates to physical pain in lots of different ways:
- Back pain
- Shoulder and neck tension
- Restless legs
- Stomach aches
- Stiff joints
10. Difficult life events
Despite our best efforts, sometimes we don’t bounce back from hard times as fast as we’d like. Difficult life events, like the death of a loved one or a divorce, bring up challenging emotions. If your sadness feels like it’s lingering too long, you might need support. “Too long” is qualified as more than half of each day, for over 2 weeks. Hard times can trigger periods of depression. It’s not unusual, and it’s totally possible to find a treatment option that works for you.
Are you seeing yourself in any of the above signs? Unfortunately, depression is all too common an experience for Canadians. Depression doesn’t need to control your life. Support is here for you. Talking to a therapist is a huge step towards feeling like yourself once again.