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July 24, 2022

What Does Depression Look Like?

Even though depression is a mood disorder that often increases feelings of sadness, periodically feeling down or unhappy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re depressed.

Major depressive disorder is much more complicated than feeling bad after a challenging week or sad after experiencing a breakup. Depression is a persistent condition characterized by specific symptoms. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of depression is one of the easiest ways to distinguish the mood disorder from the bouts of sadness we all tend to feel as we experience the ups and downs of life.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that negatively affects how you feel, think, and act. If you’re living with depression, you might experience feelings of sadness often and find yourself losing interest in activities you once enjoyed. Depression can also trigger emotional challenges that can make functioning at work or home difficult. You may have sudden mood swings that make concentration difficult, cause you to feel extremely irritable or increase feelings of hopelessness and anxiety. In some cases, you may feel completely apathetic and isolate yourself from others.

Depression can also cause physical pain that interferes with your normal day-to-day activities. Unexplained headaches, back pain, muscle aches, and stomach pain can all be symptoms of depression. Severe cases of depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and make you feel like life isn’t worth living. Even though the symptoms and severity of depression can vary, the signs and symptoms of depression don’t fade away with time. When left untreated, symptoms of depression can affect your life for days, weeks, months, or even years. Fortunately, depression is a treatable condition.

5 Common Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression can look different for everyone. Nonetheless, there are some signs and symptoms commonly associated with the mood disorder. Generally, most people living with depression experience:

1. Negative Feelings

Persistent negative feelings are some of the most common signs and symptoms of depression. As a mood disorder, depression can cause you to feel worthless and hopeless one moment and angry and irritable the next. Other negative feelings triggered by depression can include:

  • Guilt
  • Self-hate
  • Apathy
  • Despair
  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness
  • Emptiness

These unrelenting, invasive, and overwhelming feelings can make fulfilling daily responsibilities difficult. Feeling hopeless, for example, can make work tasks seem like a waste of time, leading to poor performance and unemployment. Self-hatred can cause you to isolate yourself from others, negatively impacting your relationships.

Depression can also affect your overall outlook on life. Experiencing so many overwhelming thoughts can make you feel like life itself is hopeless. This perspective can lead you to lose motivation throughout different aspects of your life. Hopelessness can also cause you to:

  • Stop taking care of your family
  • Quit performing well at work or school
  • Feel empty and purposeless
  • Neglect your personal health and hygiene
  • Consider suicide

Feelings of despair, hopelessness, and irritability can all increase a person’s likelihood of addiction. Many people who struggle with depression turn to addictive substances as a coping mechanism, which can easily spiral into addiction.

Everyone experiences negative thoughts, but if you’ve been grappling with a bout of overwhelming negative thoughts every day for at least 2 weeks, you should seek help for clinical depression.

If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

2. A Loss of Interest In Activities You Once Enjoyed

As you become increasingly overwhelmed by negative thinking, depression can also cause you to lose interest in activities you once enjoyed. In many ways, depression can make you feel like a deflated balloon: small, worthless, and purposeless. Depression can even make the activities you love most seem less engaging. For example, you may not want to spend time with your friends, watch sports, go to the movies, garden, exercise, or do any of the activities you previously enjoyed.

Depression can also diminish your desire for and interest in sex. A decreased sex drive and impotence are two common examples of symptoms associated with depression. Unfortunately, a lack of intimacy coupled with persistent negative feelings can make you feel even more isolated, worthless, and downcast.

If you’ve stopped participating in activities you once enjoyed, you may be depressed. Be sure to talk to a medical professional about your loss of interest and any other symptoms of depression you may be exhibiting.

3. Constant Fatigue

Depression is often associated with fatigue and a general lack of energy. Medical experts report that more than 90% of people living with depression struggle with fatigue. Generally, this leads to excessive sleeping. Because of this, many people with depression have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. Excessive fatigue triggered by depression can also cause individuals to neglect self-care, such as failing to cook healthy meals or not paying attention to their health and hygiene.

Depression can also keep you up at night. Dealing with negative feelings can leave the mind unsettled which can lead to insomnia and fatigue. Unfortunately, a lack of quality, restful sleep can also lead to anxiety and “brain fog.” Even though depression hasn’t been shown to cause anxiety, the two conditions often occur together. Fatigued-induced anxiety can make you nervous and restless. Experiencing brain fog can make concentration difficult, leading to frustration and irritability. Unfortunately, frustration and “brain fog” can also make you feel worthless and helpless.

4. Appetite and Weight Changes

You may not notice the shift at first, but depression can cause gradual appetite and weight changes. Feeling depressed can increase or decrease your appetite. Some people try to numb their pain with their favorite foods while others seek solace by staying in bed and refusing to eat. You can determine if appetite changes might be connected to depression by evaluating if the changes are intentional or not. Take a minute to think about if you or a loved one are choosing to eat more or less or if the changes just “happen” outside of your control. Any unintentional appetite changes that just seem to happen out of the blue may be a symptom of depression.

5. Unexplained Physical Pain

Most people tend to think of depression as a medical condition characterized by emotional pain. Even though that’s true, depression can also manifest itself physically. Research seems to indicate that depression might be related to improper functioning of nerve cell networks that connect to the parts of the brain that process emotions. Some of these networks also process information about physical pain. This means that depression can trigger physical ailments. Some of the most common pain associated with depression includes:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Bloating
  • Digestive problems
  • Joint pain
  • Back pain
  • Random aches and pains
  • A weakened immune system

If you are experiencing any of these ailments along with unexplained appetite changes, uncontrollable emotions, fatigue, and a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, you may be suffering from depression. Fortunately, depression can be treated.

Addiction Treatment in Massachusetts That Equips and Empowers You To Live The Life You Want

Here at Meta in Massachusetts, we know how debilitating depression can be. We also know that living with depression can increase your risk of substance abuse challenges. That’s why our clinical services can help treat depression and empower you to live an enjoyable, purpose-filled life. Let us help you get there. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.