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How to recognise the signs of depression

Depression is a debilitating mood disorder that affects around 350 million people across the world. For some, it’s a case of feeling consistently ‘low’, and more extreme forms can lead to suicidal thoughts.

Sometimes, these feelings can be triggered by specific events, such as a bereavement, the breakdown of a relationship, the birth of a child (post-natal depression) or stress in the workplace. However, often there is no specific reason at all.

The good news is that there are a number of treatments available that can result in a full recovery for the majority of patients. These range from prescribed medication, such as anti-depressants, to talking therapies including counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Self-help and making changes in your lifestyle can also be a huge help.

While the symptoms of depression are wide and can vary from person to person, we have outlined some of the common signs you can look out for if you think you or a loved one might be suffering from this illness.

What is depression? 

We all go through periods of sadness or feeling under the weather from time to time, and this is completely normal. However, if you find that this low mood is still there after two or more weeks and is affecting your work and the way you interact with family and friends, this could mean you are suffering from depression. In such cases, it’s important to consult a health professional. You’re not alone and help is available.

Do I have depression?

The emotional signs of depression 

There are a number of psychological or emotional signs of depression. You may have an enduring sense of hopelessness that there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation. Some people feel demotivated or no longer gain pleasure from activities and hobbies that they usually enjoy, and this can include a lack of sex drive. Further emotional effects of depression include:

• low self-esteem,
• anxiety
• tearfulness
• difficulty making decisions
• feelings of guilt
• having trouble concentrating or remembering things
• having a short temper and feeling easily irritated

In the most serious cases, people suffering from depression may have thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

The physical symptoms of depression

Depression can also manifest itself in physical ways. If you notice changes in your appetite leading to a 5 percent loss or increase in weight over the space of a month alongside other symptoms, this may mean you are dealing with the condition. You may also experience a lack of energy and feel physically drained all the time, meaning even small tasks can exhaust you more than they usually would. Many sufferers get insomnia, either finding it hard to fall asleep or waking up very early in the morning, while others find they are sleeping longer than usual and struggle to get out of bed. If you are experiencing physical pain that can’t be explained, such as head and stomach aches or muscle pain, this can also be a symptom. Some women may notice changes in their menstrual cycle.

The signs of depression can vary across age and gender

For teenagers, depression comes more in the form of anger rather than sadness. They are also more likely to suffer from unexplained aches and pains. Older adults will also complain about physical pain, as well as fatigue and memory issues.

Depression in men 

Symptoms of depression can also often vary depending on your gender. With men, the signs are often physical exhaustion, sleep issues, lack of interest in pastimes and an increase in anger and aggression.

Depression in women

Women will usually experience feelings of guilt, and have a tendency to sleep more and put on weight. 

How to deal with depression

If you feel you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression, you should seek the help of a medical professional as soon as possible. There are a wealth of treatments available, and the sooner you are diagnosed, the faster you will be on the way to recovery. There is a wide selection of resources about depression available and can help with spotting the symptoms or learning to deal with the condition. Good sources of information include the mental health charity, Mind.