Who hasn’t felt a lonely or sad at times? We all have days when we feel down, blah, or overwhelmed with life, and we may even go through periods when we have a really tough case of the blues. If we take a closer look, however, there’s often an identifiable cause behind those feelings; a loss, an emotional or physical blow of some kind.

Grief over the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, a financial setback, or some other type of extreme hardship may cause us to feel a bit hopeless and miserable temporarily. Having those feelings doesn’t necessarily mean we’re depressed—it might just be our normal and understandable reaction to life’s hardships.

So how do we know if we, or someone we care about, are suffering from depression rather than just ordinary sadness? It’s not always easy to tell the difference. The short, quick answer is that sadness is a temporary emotion, usually with a recognizable cause, while depression lasts for longer periods of time; sometimes forever, and often for no discernible reason. Perhaps the most important indicator of depression is that it interferes with the ability to lead a normal life.

SEE ALSO: How to Find Hope When You are Really Depressed

Recognizing depression can be extremely difficult, and the quick definition oversimplifies a very complex problem. There are many signs of this condition that you may have not considered, and to make it even harder, the signs and symptoms vary greatly from person to person, as does the severity. Worse, it’s harder to notice the signs when you are in the midst of depression already, which is why other people often notice before the depressed individual does.

The warning signs are there, but knowing what to look for makes it much more likely that you will spot them sooner.

What to Look For: Signs That You or Someone You Care About May Be Depressed

If you notice several of these symptoms lasting for more than two weeks, seek help. Even one of these symptoms that just won’t go away is a flag to speak to a professional.

Mood changes

What to look for:

  • Persistent agitation
  • The inability to relax
  • Lashing out at others
  • Unexplained irritability
  • General persistent sadness
  • Frequent crying with no reason
  • Mood swings
  • Constant frustration
  • Disproportionate anger
  • Short-temperedness
  • Aggression

Negative attitude

What to look for:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Everything seems to be going wrong
  • Constant negativity
  • Inability to see the positive side
  • “Why bother” thoughts
  • Feeling worthless
  • Persistent guilt or shame
  • Extreme self-criticism or self-blame

Changes in activity or energy level

What to look for:

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Continual low energy levels or sluggishness
  • General feeling of moving in slow motion
  • Stop exercising even though you enjoy it
  • Tire easily
  • Restlessness
  • Constant pacing or fidgeting

Loss of interest

What to look for:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • General detachment
  • Disinterest or avoidance of communicating or spending time with loved ones
  • No longer enjoy things that used to bring pleasure
  • Refusal to go out or decline social invitations
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Changes in sexual activity or interest

Brain fog

What to look for:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Inability to remember details, names, numbers
  • Fuzzy thinking
  • Hard time making decisions
  • Find easy tasks difficult
  • Forgetting appointments
  • Can’t seem to focus
  • Have to reread sentences or pages

Sleep disturbances

What to look for:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Constant waking at night
  • Sleeping longer than usual
  • Frequent naps
  • Pattern of going to bed earlier or staying up later than normal

Changes in Appetite

What to look for:

  • Loss of interest in eating
  • Consistently missing meals
  • Persistent emotionally triggered eating
  • Bulimia and anorexia are often symptoms of depression

Physical symptoms

What to look for:

  • Persistent aches and pains that won’t go away with treatment
  • Chronic unexplained stress
  • Increased self-medication

Reckless behavior

What to look for:

  • Binge drinking
  • Drug use
  • Reckless driving or speeding
  • Taking unnecessary risks
  • Taking too much medication
  • Risky sexual behavior

Thoughts of dying

What to look for:

  • Preoccupation with death
  • Thoughts such as “Things would be better off without me.” “I don’t think I can make it through another day.” “It would be better if I had never been born.”
  • Sudden desire to get affairs in order
  • Thinking about ways to kill yourself

If left untreated, depression can worsen, causing the gradual destruction of life, and not getting treatment can be life-threatening. The inability to recognize the signs of depression is often the biggest danger, but once you become aware of the signs, you need to find help. There’s nothing weak about needing help to feel better, and it’s not unreasonable to want to be happy. Proper diagnosis and treatment is the only way to combat depression—it won’t go away on its own. Watch for the signs in yourself and in those you care about, and don’t let depression go untreated.

 

Take Away: Depression is not a sign of weakness. It means you have been strong for far too long. Tweet and share this tip.

 

SEE ALSO: How To Instantly Feel Better When You Are Depressed

Featured photo credit: sad woman sitting alone in a empty room via Shutterstock

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