How can you best determine if you or someone you know is suffering from depression rather than just ordinary sadness? It’s not easy to see the difference. One short answer is that sadness is a temporary emotion typically caused by a tragic or tumultuous life event, or some other more recognizable cause. Depression is different and more diabolical. Depression is deeply rooted and lasts longer than sadness, sometimes for a lifetime. Far too often depression exists for no discernible reason. The most damaging sign of depression is that it interferes with the ability to lead a normal life.

There is hope. The first step is recognizing the condition. Once identified, you have taken the first step toward a healthy life you can enjoy.

1.Loss of interest

Have you lost your desire to participate in things you used to enjoy? Do you remember wanting to go for that run, cook or take care of the garden? But now, not even your favorite television program holds your interest. It feels like you have nothing to look forward to. It’s hard to think of anything that motivates you enough to take any action at all. Sometimes, even the simplest things feel too difficult.

2.Eating too much or not enough

You may find it hard to control your appetite. So, whether you are binge eating or not eating at all, depression often leads to a significant change in your body weight. Either way, it’s not healthy and often leads to deepening depression.

3. Sleep disturbances

Many people have difficulty sleeping (falling asleep or staying asleep) while they are depressed. Others will sleep for 10 or more hours a day unable to muster the energy to get out of bed in order to meet basic responsibilities like work or school. This can be one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome because sleep problems lead to an even bigger decrease in productivity and self-worth.

4. Lack of concentration

The inability to focus or keep your concentration can be one of the more subtle symptoms of depression. While many people have normal difficulties with concentration, depression clouds your memory and thought process. This can have negative affects on your physical health, job, family life, relationships and ability to function efficiently enough to have a normal day.

5. Hopelessness/Worthlessness

Hopelessness is the feeling that nothing can or will make you feel better. It tricks you into believing that the depression you are feeling will never go away. (That’s a lie! It does and will get better.) It’s the feeling of losing all hope for your life, relationships and career. This is very difficult to process as you feel increasingly bad about yourself.

6. Decreased motivation

Do you ever feel like you just don’t want to face the world? No matter what you say to yourself or how much your realize you’re falling behind, you don’t want to shower, work or see anyone. You haven’t been able to accomplish even simple things for weeks. You don’t remember the last time you spent time with friends. Maybe you’ve stopped bathing regularly. The longer you go without motivation, the deeper your depression becomes.

7. Increased crying

Do you start crying when little or nothing has happened? Perhaps you can’t control it. Do you start crying and can’t stop? Crying is a normal emotional expression at the appropriate times, but crying without knowing why or without the ability to stop is a sign of something deeper.

8. Feeling guilty

Do you feel guilty because of the “burden” you are placing on others? Do you feel like your emotions have become so unmanageable that they are negatively affecting those you care about? Do you take on the blame for things that have nothing to do with you? Depression often comes with guilt about your relationships, life and even unrelated events that happen around you.

9. Slowed or Rapid thinking/moving

When you’re depressed your mind and body can react in one of two ways (psychomotor agitation or psychomotor retardation). First, your mood can affect the way you think and move causing you to become very fidgety, restless and have faster speech. Alternately, your body and mind can completely slow down to a point that it’s difficult for you to get a sentence out. You find it difficult to move and discover that you can’t move as fast as you once could.

10. Suicidal thoughts/Thoughts you’d be better off not hearing

This is the scariest part of being depressed. Feeling so down that you can’t imagine a solution better than death. Or, you feel like if you never woke up in the morning, you wouldn’t care. If this happens, it’s extremely important to tell a reliable adult (spouse, good friend, colleague, therapist, doctor) what’s going on. If they don’t know how to help, call 911 immediately.

© 2015 Allie R. Shapiro, M.D.

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