Depression has been a topic that has been at the forefront of many people’s minds lately. With so many influencers and celebrities speaking out about depression, or even taking their own lives, more often we see the word appear on our social media news feeds. Yet, when someone actually suffers from depression themselves, it’s incredibly difficult to see things in the “bigger picture.” While those who suffer from depression could use outside help and intervention–such as therapy, psychiatry, or even possibly medication–it’s hard to figure out when the right time to “seek help” actually is. The signs of depression seem almost to be a “no-brainer” to many, and when you have them–you know it. But, the problem doesn’t lie with admitting that you have depression, it’s more so deciding when is the right moment to stop and say: “I need help.”
There are several signs and symptoms of worsening depression that are indicators that you should seek outside help and intervention. And, while not everyone can afford health insurance or professional care, there are affordable outlets online, digitally, where you can seek advice, help, and guidance. But, first, it’s important to know the signs.
9. Your work (or schoolwork) is slipping.
Whether you’re a student or an employee somewhere, your work is important. While in school, we want to obtain good grades to graduate on top. At work, we want to have a solid performance to keep our jobs and even one day get a raise or a promotion. If you see that either of these important aspects of your life has slowed down, it may be a sign that your depression is taking a toll on you. An inability to concentrate on your work can be a tell-tale sign that you’re wrapped up in other thoughts throughout the day. Many who suffer from depression claim they have “brain fuzz periods,” during the day where their mind will completely go blank when they should be working on something else. According to Amy Morin, psychotherapist, and college psychology instructor:
“People with depression are often forgetful and frequently misplace everyday objects, like their keys or paperwork … If you’ve noticed a decline in your productivity or you’re having difficulty staying on task, consider the possibility that you may be depressed.”
8. You have completely isolated yourself from those around you.
Isolating yourself from people means that there’s a bigger issue lurking below the surface. Many therapists state that when depression episodes get to their worst, people often times feel as though they’re a “burden” on their loved ones and instead of seeking help or advice, they choose to cut themselves off completely. For many who suffer from depression, being social and friendly can be an incredibly difficult task–even answering a text message can be a struggle. Stephen Ilardi, PhD claims:
“When we’re clinically depressed, there’s a very strong urge to pull away from others and to shut down. It turns out to be the exact opposite of what we need.
In times of struggle, your support system is needed the most. If you feel uncomfortable talking about yourself and what you’re going through, try to find ways to bring up other things–like asking how the other person is doing. And, never be afraid to admit when you do need some help. Your friends and family love you for a reason, and, if they see you suffering they will not want you to do it alone.
7. You gained/lost a significant amount of weight in a short period of time.
Weight and appetite have a lot to do with your mental health. While many believe that a loss of appetite is a sign of depression, an increase in appetite can also be an indication that your depression is worsening. If you’re someone who usually weighs the same amount and eats the same amount regularly and find a big difference in your eating habits, it’s something to take note of. Joseph Hullett, MD says:
“People with seasonal affective disorder, for example, may become sluggish and gain weight in the winter and lose weight in the spring, like a bear in hibernation. People with depression and anxiety, on the other hand, may wring their hands, pace a lot, and tremble more because their metabolisms are accelerated — as a result, they can lose weight.”
“Generally, depressed people won’t lose so much weight that they are endangering their health, except in severe cases. But depression and weight gain can escalate to the point that a person becomes obese and develops heart disease and diabetes, so it needs to be addressed regardless of the severity of depression.”
Your mental health plays an important role in your physical health. If your mind is not healthy, your body will follow slowly, but surely.
6. You find yourself becoming more irritable.
Sometimes depression can mask itself as something else that you would usually brush off–like, your temperament. While we all get annoyed with our lives and those around us from time to time, if you find yourself getting more “on edge” more frequently, this could be a sign that your depression is getting a bit worse. According to psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow:
“Often depression can present as irritability. You might be in a bad mood and feel cranky, irritable, and down — but not sad. Irritability is a symptom of depression both mild and moderate.”
Many people mistake depression as just being sad and blue, but it’s so much more than that. Anger and irritability can be a huge sign of a deeper problem. If it helps, take note of how many times you get worked up over something–and, just what that something is. Seeing the changes in your mood on paper or in an app on your phone can help you better understand how much more it’s happening and what the triggers may be.
5. Your sleeping habits are completely different, or sporadic.
Many people think that depression means you’re exhausted all day and constantly sleeping in. But, that’s not always the case. The biggest issue to look out for is a change in your sleeping routine. Are you sleeping more than usual? Are you getting less sleep? Are you waking up in the middle of the night? Often times, an inability to get a good, deep sleep in means subconsciously there is a bigger issue keeping you “awake.” If you’re having a hard time getting a deep sleep, it could be a major sign that your depression is worsening, according to The Sleep Foundation.
If you’re struggling to sleep at night, there are herbal remedies that may help you relax at night such as herbal teas and essential oils. Experts say that anything with lavender and chamomile will help ease your mind and body before getting some R&R. Also, put your phone away at least a half-hour before you go to sleep–the blue light on our phones often keeps our minds racing. Turning off the TV also helps, as the noise from the background, too, keeps our mind awake. If none of these little tips help, consult your doctor or therapist about finding ways to help get a better rest–as a good sleep is imperative to good mental health.
4. You feel sluggish–as though you’re physically ill.
Many of us know what to do when we feel physically sick–like when we get the flu or a fever. We usually take some medicine, get some rest, and see a doctor if it gets really bad. But, what about when we feel rundown and “sick,” but we’re not actually sick? Experts say that when your depression is getting worse–and I mean really bad–your body reacts as though you have a physical illness. Many people who have depression admit that their body begins to react to their mental health disorders, as well. For some, they feel confused and “slow,”
“Everything is slow. My movements, my thoughts, my speech. I take longer to answer questions, and I stop in the middle of sentences because it’s almost like my brain gives up.”
Others admit that they have other ailments in their body–lik rib pain, limb pain, and fainting. If you feel as though you’re experiencing any physical discomforts associated with your depression, talk to your doctor about managing them. And, it’s important to note what you feel and when you feel it. In order to stay on top of your symptoms and depression, you need to get to know it as well as you know yourself.
3. Things that used to excite you just don’t anymore.
Life is about finding things we can fall in love with and enjoy them. Whether it’s TV series, restaurants, music, or experiences with people you care for–life is all about the moments of happiness. If you find yourself feeling pretty down about things you used to obsess over–like Game of Thrones, boneless wings, or $1 beers at happy hour–it could be a sign that you’re not in your best place. According to Myers and Marcellin, depression makes life “seem dull,” including things that once were beautiful to you.
If you feel withdrawn from things that used to make you incredibly happy, don’t overstimulate yourself trying to make the “love-fest” reappear in your life. In turn, that can make you despise things you once loved because it will bring you back to a time you felt you were at your worst. Talk to your therapist or mental health counselor on ways to bring back the joy in your life when it comes to hobbies and interests.
2. Your sex drive has decreased–rapidly.
Sex drive and your mental health go hand in hand. While sex is something that people enjoy with their partners, if you aren’t feeling good about yourself, there’s a good chance you’re not interested in anything sexual. It’s actually quite common to have a decreased sex drive when suffering from depression, as the hormones in your brain are affected. According to Jennifer Payne M.D.:
“Change in sex drive is a key symptom we look at when deciding if someone fits the diagnosis for major depressive episodes. A primary symptom of depression is the inability to enjoy things you normally enjoy, like sex. People with depression also have decreased energy, feel badly about themselves and might view their partners through a negative filter, all of which impacts sex drive.”
If you are in a relationship and suffering from worsening depression, talk to your partner about why you haven’t been as interested in bedroom activity. If they love you, they will be understanding and try to help you become a more comfortable you again. Also, talk to your mental health counselor about your drawbacks in terms of sexual activity and what negative thoughts you may be having. You can even ask your partner if they are comfortable coming into therapy with you to have a joint session.
1. You have any thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
When it comes to depression, not everyone is suicidal. In fact, 9.3 million adults (3.9% of the adult U.S. population) have reported having suicidal thoughts, while 14.8 million adults (6.7% of the U.S. population) reported suffering from depression. While not all adults who suffer from depression have suicidal thoughts, a large portion of them do. If you have ever self-harmed in the past, such as cutting, and feel the need to do it again–it’s a major red flag that you need to seek outside help immediately. You are not at fault for having harmful thoughts–no one will blame you and scold you for the way you feel–instead, they will try to help find a solution that best suits your needs.
Many who do have suicidal thoughts are scared or nervous that telling someone automatically means they will try and commit or medicate you. While you may need extra help, this doesn’t always have to be the case. In fact, there are several types of therapy that experts believe work for this kind of depression.