Depression can be situational, brought on by a life event such as the loss of a loved one or a change in jobs or relationship status. Other forms of depression are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and can seem to appear for no reason. Depression comes in many forms, and the symptoms vary from person to person. Some people also become very proficient at masking the symptoms of depression.
Clinical depression requires a diagnosis by a medical professional. Depression symptoms can range from mild to severe. If you experience any of the following symptoms, and they last more than a week, please speak with your doctor.
- Feelings of sadness and hopefulness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
- Anger management issues, especially if you are not even sure what you feel angry about
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Slowed, or sluggish thinking
- Difficulty with concentration or difficulty making decisions
- Sleep disturbances such as sleeping too much or too little
- Feeling tired, depleted energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Unexplained physical problems such as digestive issues, back pain, and headaches
- Frequent, recurrent thoughts of death or suicide (If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help immediately. Call your doctor, go to your local emergency room or call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.)
Major Depressive Disorder is a mood disorder that causes the above symptoms. The cause of Major Depressive Disorder is not understood, but it does cause biological changes in the brain. Brain chemistry, hormones and inherited traits all play a part in making some people susceptible to the disorder.
There are risk factors that can make someone more prone to depression. Those risk factors include:
- Personality traits such as low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, being pessimistic and being too dependent on others.
- Blood relatives with a history of depression, Bipolar Disorder, suicide, or substance abuse are a significant risk factor for developing depression.
- Traumatic events such as being victimized or abused, the death of someone close to you, financial or relationship problems are all factors that can cause a depressive episode.
- A history of other mental health disorders can make you more prone to depression
- Serious or chronic illnesses can cause depression.
Some people experience unusual symptoms of depression. People will also commonly hide the symptoms of their depression from friends and loved ones. This can make it difficult to help and support someone close to you if they do not exhibit the classic symptoms and do not open up about their feelings.
If you are concerned that someone you care about may be experiencing depression, paying attention to the following signs may help you determine if depression may be the cause:
- Changes in appetite and eating habits—If a person has always been conscientious about healthy eating and is suddenly frequently binging on junk food, they may be struggling with depression. A significant decrease in appetite may also be a warning sign.
- A change in sleep habits—Those with insomnia are ten times more likely to struggle with depression. Sleeping too much can also signal a struggle with depression.
- Fatigue—Fatigue is common in depression, and it is a symptom that is difficult to hide. If a person experiences a dramatic decrease in their energy level, depression may be the cause.
- Disinterest in hobbies—If someone you care about seems to lose interest in things they once enjoyed, this can signal a depressive episode.
- Forced happiness—It can be taxing to fake feeling happy. If you know a person well, you will probably be able to identify times when they let the mask slip.
There are several treatment options for depression. Medication, Behavioral Modification, and counseling can all be part of the tools used to combat depression. It may take some time to find the right combination for you, so it is essential not to give up when you don’t see quick improvement. Finding the right combination of treatments is often a matter of trial and error, so be patient and stick with your treatment plan. If you notice a worsening of your symptoms and you are receiving treatment, contact your provider and let them know.