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  • Sara

Depression 101: Key Symptoms

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

It is normal for everyone to experience occasional sadness and fluctuations in mood. However, when a feeling of sadness or hopelessness persists for a long period of time that is often a sign of depression. Depression is an incredibly common mental illness that affects millions of people across the globe. There are different clinical diagnoses for depression but the most common is major depressive disorder (MDD). Keep in mind that depression is a medical condition that is not caused by any one specific thing but more so a culmination of genetics, environment, and experiences.

Depression can be a bit different for everyone, but feelings of sadness or hopelessness are the most common symptoms. This mental health disorder can also leave one feeling empty inside, as if joy is unattainable. A person may also feel as if nothing truly matters and that the people in their life do not care about them or would be better off without them.

Some people experience a constant state of low mood while others will have cyclical fluctuations in mood. Regardless of how it presents, depressive episodes can be extremely difficult.

There may be a sense of self-directed guilt present when a person is suffering from clinical depression. It’s common for sufferers to experience inappropriate levels of guilt over prolonged periods of time. Depression can also cause of a lack of interest in activities and fatigue or loss of energy. Therefore, many sufferers repeatedly turn down opportunities to see friends or feel so tired that they can’t get out of bed in the morning.

Depression causes difficulty concentrating and remembering things and can interfere with one’s ability to make sound decisions. It can also impact eating habits, including causing a lack of appetite or overeating. Finally, depression may lead to thoughts on death or suicide. Someone with depression may think more often about death and dying, consider ways to harm themselves, or think about suicide and ways to end their life.

Because of all of the ways in which depression can impact one's life, it can be very tying to participate in daily activities. Work can be especially draining and productivity may drop. Colleagues and supervisors will often notice a change for the worse. At home, spouses and children may witness a lack of communication and connection. They may have to bear the burden of responsibilities otherwise left unmet. The individual experiencing depression may genuinely want to help out but feel physically, mentally and emotionally unable to. They may desire to show their love but are incapable of doing so.

There are some immediate interventions that will alleviate some of the most distressing symptoms of depression, such as receiving a hug from a loved one or participating in physical activity. However, MDD is difficult to control on your own and it is important to consider seeking professional help. A therapist can help you get the bottom of these feelings, so you can figure out what’s causing them and what can be done to free yourself. Oftentimes, identifying the core conflict will allow an individual to understand what he or she can do to make things better.

Your therapist will also be able to create specific goals for helping you to feel better and will share interventions that work. For example, a safety plan may be put into place so you'll have a go-to resource the next time you're feeling down to help you identify activities to engage in to start feeling better. Of course, goals may change overtime as you change, and that's just fine. You can work together to identify new intervention that fit at any point along the way.

It’s also important to talk with your at-home support system about what you’re thinking and feeling. Pushing them away and choosing to isolate will only make things worse. Loved ones can help us get out of our own heads when we need it the most and encourage us to engage and participate in life when we least want to.

It can be difficult to have conversations about your depression with those you love, but it is necessary. Otherwise, it can be hard for loved ones to understand what's happening and they may feel as if they've done something wrong (especially when it comes to children who naturally have a hard time comprehending compromised mental health). They may then push away from you and this can generate feelings of abandonment on both ends. Not having conversations about how you're feeling can create undue barriers that make these symptoms worse.

Depression can be dangerous when left untreated but remember that you are not alone. If you feel your symptoms have become unmanageable and it’s difficult to see a way out, it could be time to seek professional help. With proper treatment, you can say “no” to depression controlling your life.


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