No matter your age, parenthood is one of the most challenging parts of life you can go through – from a physical, emotional, mental, and even financial point of view. There is the pressure of being a good parent to deal with, not to mention the ever-present lack of sleep and alone time, plus the constant demands for your attention and money, bodily changes for many mothers to adjust to, as well as the potential for post-natal depression.
All in all, it’s no wonder that many parents start to suffer from depression due to the variety of pressures they’re under. Some parents also struggle with additional mental health issues, such as personality disorders or addictions (variously known as having a co-occurring mental health disorder, or being dually disordered), which makes life even more difficult.
As a result, it is important for everyone to understand some of the most common symptoms of depression so that you can be aware of your own low mood, or notice that of your partner, loved one, or friend. Read on for some of the top signs of depression that you should be on the lookout for.
Decreased/Enhanced Appetite or Changes in Weight
A very common symptom that many people who are depressed experience is a change in their appetite and a corresponding weight gain or loss. If you notice that a family member or friend seems to be eating a lot more or a lot less than normal over an extended period of time, they may be suffering from depression. While of course everyone tends to have times when they don’t feel hungry or end up overindulging, a prolonged change in appetite (that lasts for a couple of weeks or more, and that potentially also leads to a rapid weight gain or loss), can be cause for concern.
In particular, many moms tend to suffer from a loss of self-esteem after they gain weight during pregnancy and typically have less time to prepare nutritious meals or exercise once their baby has been born. They are more likely to suffer from depressive feelings and even develop eating disorders.
Insomnia or Fatigue
Another very common sign of depression is a change in sleeping patterns. While obviously parents, particularly new ones, often struggle with less sleep because they are woken up by little ones, sleep disturbances can also be caused by anxiety, stress, and deeper psychological issues. Indeed, people who are suffering from depression regularly note that they are trying to deal with insomnia or that they have frequent nightmares that keep them from enjoying a proper night’s sleep.
In addition, often when people are depressed, they end up feeling fatigued all the time, even if they get enough sleep. Depression may be to blame for lack of energy, disturbed sleeping patterns for lengthy periods of time, low moods, and other depressive signs.
Loss of Interest in Normal Activities
For many people who are coping with depression, social withdrawal is a common sign that they’re suffering, as is a general loss of interest in the normal activities they enjoyed in the past. When people have been feeling down for a sustained amount of time, they often wish to steer clear of company and will avoid many of their usual activities as a result.
If, then, you notice that a friend or family member no longer wants to go out, attend their usual sporting events, meet contacts for regular catch-ups, or are otherwise retreating into their shell, this may be a sure sign that they are depressed. Where possible, try to encourage them to get out of the house or away from the office more, even if it is just for short periods of time. Opening the lines of communication, and providing people with a safe place to chat and otherwise feel supported can do wonders for mental health.
Feelings of Despair
Lastly, many parents who are struggling with depression suffer from feelings of despair, guilt, hopelessness, and worthlessness. This can be triggered by the dramatic life change that occurs when people become parents or because they may be worried about being a good parent, about the family’s finances, about their body image, their career, health, or familial relationships – just to name a few things. Post-natal depression can also often cause new mothers to start exhibiting negative self-talk and a marked loss of self-esteem.
If you hear one of your friends or family members speaking negatively about themselves on a regular basis, take note. While everyone has times of self-doubt or worry, people who are depressed often tend to focus solely on thoughts that are harmful to their self-esteem. Keep an eye out for repeated phrases such as “It’s all my fault,” “People would be better off without me,” “I’m a failure,” “I’m a terrible parent,” or “I’m worthless.”
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