The World Health Organization recently reported that depression is now the leading cause of poor health and disability globally, and estimated 300 million people suffer from the condition. Since 2005, rates of depression have increased by more than 18%, and sufferers frequently go undiagnosed and untreated, partially due to the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
Depression is also strongly associated with addiction, anxiety, diabetes, and heart disease. As many as 1 in 4 adults suffer from a level of depression that is thoroughly affecting their lives.
There are several warning signs of depression to look for if you feel you or someone close to you may be suffering. Please not that not all of these signs need be present for depression to exist.
Trouble With Concentration
People who are depressed often experience racing thoughts that induce stress or sadness. These excessive thoughts often lead to problems with concentration at school or work. It’s also common to become forgetful and less able to pay attention to detail.
Signs of depression may include a number of other cognitive changes, such as decreased attention span and difficulties with decision-making, problem-solving, memory, or focus.
Rumination or excessive worrying is also a sign of depression. Rumination happens when a person’s mind keeps replaying the same destructive thoughts and feelings. Self-reflection becomes extremely negative, and the person becomes self-absorbed or obsessive about certain people or situations that have occurred or are occurring.
Rumination often results in expressing these thoughts over and over again to others. If someone close to you is verbally ruminating, there’s a good chance he or she is spiraling down into a depressive state. This negativity can cause others to turn against them, so it’s important to recognize what going on, be supportive, and encourage the person to seek help.
Feeling of Guilt, Shame, Hopelessness
People who are depressed often feel guilty, either about the depression itself or due to some real or imagined misbehavior. They also feel ashamed of their condition or themselves as a person. They may feel helpless, hopeless, and powerless.
They may feel that they are not deserving of help or love, and sometimes that others would be better off without them or that they would be better off dead. These feelings are especially troubling and can lead to suicidal ideations.
Mood fluctuations and outward aggression, excessive crying, or irritability are clues that someone isn’t mentally healthy. The person may be easily upset or agitated, and quick to snap or self-isolate when these moods manifest.
Weight can increase or decrease significantly during long-term bouts of depression. Some people turn to food for comfort, while others completely lose their appetite. People who have suffered from eating disorders especially may adapt their eating behavior to cope or feel like they are in control.
Sleep disturbances can manifest as either sleeping too much or not enough. It can also take the form of lying in bed awake, but unwilling to get up. Depression can cause insomnia, and a lack of sleep is known to increase symptoms of both depression and anxiety.
With or without sleeping changes, depression may exhibit itself in the form of fatigue and low energy in everyday life. For those who are usually active, this can reflect a dramatic change in mood. It can also result in more depression from lack of activity and energy.
A Lack of Personal and Social Engagement
People who are depressed often become disengaged from others in their family and social group. This can range from a flat affect while in social situations, to total avoidance and isolation.
Also, people with depression tend to lose interest in activities, such as hobbies and sports/physical fitness.
Experiencing Physical Pain
Depression, like many mental illnesses can affect the body and manifest itself in generalized pain, such as headaches, backaches, and digestive problems. These symptoms occur because depression and pain share similar brain chemicals which travel the nerve pathways.
Patients who start experiencing this type of pain may go to a doctor, who in turn may not recognize the problems as manifestations of depression. Moreover, the doctor may find nothing wrong with the patient, despite the fact that the pain is quite real. In this situation, the patient can become more frustrated and depressed.
Treatment for Depression
Although some people can suffer from chronic depression, in general, it is very treatable. Anti-depressants are available, in the form of medication such as paroxetine and sertraline. But medication alone isn’t really the answer.
For moderate to severe depression, therapy or counseling is advised to promote insight and improve coping mechanisms. Other approaches that may mitigate depression include meditation, yoga, mindfulness, and other alternative therapies, such as art and music therapy.
Also, engaging in exercise and physical activity, as well as eating healthy are highly recommended. For those who are also using substances as a means to self-medicate, both conditions can and should be treated concurrently.