Depression, also known as clinical depression and major depressive disorder (MDD), is one of the least understood disorders of our time.
People have a tendency to disregard what they can’t physically see as an occasional mood-swing or a short-lived bout of despondency, nothing a tub of chocolate ice cream and a good night’s sleep can’t fix.
For such people, “disorder” and “disease” are terms reserved for things that are more serious, and “feeling depressed” just doesn’t cut it.
Nothing is more harmful to a patient of depression than such ignorant and flippant views.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 350 million people of various ages around the world suffer from depression. If left untreated, it can lead to suicide.
Yes, it’s normal to feel down when you face challenges in your everyday life, but these feelings usually subside with time and do not alter your life negatively in major ways.
However, depression is a lot more than a temporary emotional reaction.
Depression is a mental disorder. It can cause symptoms that do not get better with the passage of time, completely wreck your daily routine and severely deteriorate the quality of your personal, social and professional life.
Factors such as lack of information, lack of trained medical professionals, poor and incorrect diagnoses, and the general stigma surrounding mental disorders are the reason fewer than half the patients of depression seek and receive adequate treatment.
The first step toward combating any disorder is identifying its symptoms and generating awareness about it.
Here are 10 warning signs of depression you should not ignore.
1. Low Self-Esteem, Guilt & Hopelessness
Lack of self-confidence, feelings of guilt and a bleak vision of what the future holds are trademark symptoms of clinical depression.
Some people may not merely hold themselves in low regard, but may feel disgusted with who they are. Some may also express a heightened sense of guilt and blame themselves excessively for past mistakes.
Patients of depression are more unforgiving of themselves, and in only a few cases do they reportedly blame others or express negative feelings toward them. This proves that guilt and self-blame is central to clinical depression.
Out of 132 patients of MDD, 85 percent reported feelings of self-blame and inadequacy as the most troublesome and recurring symptoms, according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
Self-disgust, guilt and shame were the next-reported frequently occurring symptoms, the study further notes.
Fatigue is a commonly occurring symptom in patients of depression, according to a 2004 study published in Psychiatry.
Serotonin is the neurotransmitter emitted by our brain responsible for creating feelings of happiness. Similarly, epinephrine is the neurotransmitter responsible for creating energy.
Biologically, clinical depression suppresses the levels of serotonin produced by the brain, which in turn triggers a lower production of other neurotransmitters, including epinephrine. This results in chronic fatigue.
Out of 78,463 respondents of the Depression Research in European Society study conducted in six European countries, 73 percent reported tiredness as a major symptom of depression, according to a 2000 study published in European Neuropsychopharmacology.
A patient of depression will feel physically tired even after an adequate night’s sleep and without much physical activity. This will cause mental tiredness as well, rendering the patient incapable of engaging in any activity.
Diagnosis and treatment of fatigue in patients of depression is poor, which leads to more severe and longer-persisting depression, according to a 2014 study published in Depression and Anxiety.
The homeostasis process of your body tells you when you have been awake long enough and require sleep. The circadian process of your body maintains the sleepiness and wakefulness during the day.
Depression messes up these twin systems that help you sleep.
Out of 531 patients of depression, 97 percent reported insomnia, out of whom 59 percent reported that lack of sleep severely undermined the quality of their lives, 40 percent admitted to daytime napping and 34 percent said insomnia was “very distressing”, according to a 2009 study published in International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice.
Moreover, non-depressed insomniacs present a two-fold risk of developing depression as opposed to people with no sleep problems, according to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
Lastly, insomnia that persists after depression increases the risk of becoming clinically depressed once again, according to a 2000 study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews. It is important to consider this possibility when seeking treatment for depression.
4. Anger & Irritability
Along with a prolonged, obvious and overwhelming sense of despair, there is one other emotion that is characteristic of the initial stage of depression – anger.
This is often accompanied with heightened irritability and a tendency to lose one’s cool over seemingly trivial things.
Any tiny and harmless thing can trigger an outburst from a depressed person, and they will not shy away from lashing out at family, friends and even strangers.
A depressed individual, even when they are not verbally expressing rage, might be consumed with anger internally.
Moreover, a depressive condition that is accompanied by anger is more severe in intensity than regular clinical depression and is likely to stay longer too, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Such a serious, prolonged and rage-infested depression can also trigger other disorders, such as substance abuse and anxiety disorders, the study further notes.
Anxiety is not merely feeling nervous about something that has happened or is yet to occur. Anxiety disorders are capable of terribly interfering with a person’s peace of mind and making them obsess over little things to the point of paranoia.
When you are suffering from depression, an anxiety attack can put you on the edge and push you deeper into darkness.
A slight personal setback, for instance, will cause the depressed person to beat themselves over their failure to the point of hopeless despair.
They will be unable to distract themselves and may even display physical symptoms, such as sweating, palpitations and a rapid heartbeat.
Out of 255 patients of depression, 50.6 percent reported anxiety disorders, according to a 2000 study published in Comprehensive Psychiatry.
Out of this total, 27 percent reported fear of social situations, 16 percent reported fear/phobia of different things (including open spaces) and 14 percent reported panic disorder, the study further notes.
6. Lack of Concentration & Short-Term Memory Loss
Today’s fast-paced world may leave you overwhelmed and distracted from time to time. However, if along with constantly feeling miserable, you just cannot seem to concentrate on a single thing longer than a few seconds, you might be depressed.
Deteriorated concentration is one of the most frequently occurring symptoms of MDD, according to a 2004 study published in Psychiatry Research.
Patients of depression also reported difficulty recalling information on a short-term basis, according to a 2015 study published in Cognition and Emotion.
You might notice you have become less productive and are constantly forgetting where you put important things like your documents or your keys. This short-term memory loss may indicate depression.