Am I depressed? What are the signs of depression? We live in a world where self-diagnosis has a negative connotation. If I were to use my “I did my own research” degree to determine that my common cold symptoms were caused by the black plague, I would probably be met with open mockery, and rightly so. However, this stigma applies to mental health as well. Though it is not meaningful to apply sweeping or serious diagnoses to our mental health without professional support, it is important to be aware of our physiology and how we are feeling.
Understanding the Signs
Knowing and understanding the signs of another who may be struggling with depression is also the first step to being a good friend and advocate. It is also important to note the difference between using web-based research to reach a conclusion and simply speaking with a mental health professional. Nearly any web search about mental health will return an advertisement for a pharmaceutical answer when the best approach is likely to discuss your needs with a qualified mental health professional. Here are provided some tools and strategies for recognizing warning signs on the road to wellness.
It is important to understand that sad things make us sad, sometimes even very, very sad. Sadness resulting from the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the loss of a relationship can be difficult but is also normal. However, when normal sadness or grief is not repaired by time or causes impairment, then it becomes important to address the question of wider mental health concerns. Here are some symptoms of depression and mental illness to be aware of:
Physical Signs Of Depression
- General fatigue is one sign of many different mental health ailments. Alone, fatigue may not be a warning sign. Some of the happiest years of my life have been exhausting times where I was very busy. However, when fatigue is paired with mental anguish, deep sadness, anxiety, and other symptoms, it can be a sign that change is in order. This is especially true when ample opportunity to sleep does not remove the fatigue. Under normal circumstances, we should not have difficulty falling and staying asleep on a regular basis. Exhaustion paired with the inability to obtain solid rest is a reason to evaluate your mental health.
- Difficulty focusing can be a symptom of psychological strain. In many instances it is paired with an event, series of events, or circumstances that are emotionally taxing, otherwise called trauma. Trauma can occupy so much of a sufferer’s mind, that there is little capacity left for day-to-day operations. Aside from trauma, lack of focus can exist from an attention disorder. Attention disorders, though considered common, require a diagnosis from a healthcare professional.
- Sudden and drastic changes in diet. Under extreme pressure, there was a brief period of my life where I was rarely hungry, and when I did eat I did not enjoy the food that sustained me. Fortunately for me, this situation was temporary and my diet returned to normal when I cleared the trial I faced. On the other end of the spectrum, I have seen a loved one who, in response to a real and prolonged depression, began overeating to the point where they doubled in body weight and as a result developed high blood pressure and became at risk for numerous other ailments.
Emotional Signs of Depression
- Withdrawing from friends and activities. When a person takes a step back from things and people they enjoy, it may be in response to another stressor, and sometimes that stressor can be a mental illness. Often when we are overwhelmed we eliminate optional activities and relationships to give ourselves time to cope with our struggles. This can be normal behavior, but when it persists over a long period of time, it is indicative of a larger problem. Amid the global pandemic of this year, it may be difficult to gauge this indicator for ourselves and others as it has become necessary to avoid contact with others. Be mindful of your own mental state as you consider this symptom, and reach out to those around you who you feel may be at risk.
- Increase and overuse of substances. Drug addiction is a mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health places the figure of those suffering from substance use disorder at over 20 million adults between alcohol and drug abuse, and the correlation between traditional substance use disorder and other serious mental illnesses is high, particularly in adult men. Addiction is a huge roadblock to mental health, so it is important to maintain a healthy relationship with addictive substances, whether you abstain, or indulge with caution. If you are dealing with an addiction issue, or suspect a loved one is struggling, you can find resources HERE.
- Suicidal thoughts and feelings. This symptom would seem like an obvious indicator requiring immediate medical attention, yet many who consider ending their own lives do not consider themselves to be suffering from mental illness, and instead of understanding the need for help, see themselves as worthless. This situation is an outcome of the stigma associated with mental illness, and a major roadblock to wellness. Overcoming this stigma is the hallmark mission of Overt Foundation.
A first step in reacting to the above signs of mental illness or depression is advocacy, beginning with advocating for yourself. Seek to understand your own struggles and watch for the struggles of others. You can also share your story. Starting with family and friends, share your experiences with trusted people and you will find yourself building resiliency and making progress towards tearing down the stigma, as well, confiding in others will assist you in getting the help you need. This is also something that can be done within the Overt community. Share your story HERE.
Curtis grew up in Texas and graduated from Southern Utah University with a master’s degree in Public Administration. He has spent the majority of his career working in field operations and currently works as a talent acquisition manager. His passion for mental health comes from personally witnessing the struggles of individuals experiencing mental health challenges and their suffering from the social stigma with which such illnesses are often met.