Depression is one of the most common mental disorders, with more than 264 million people suffering from it worldwide. In difficult times, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, the incidence of depression rises – a CDC study reports that in the summer of 2020, approximately 41% of US adults struggled with mental health and substance abuse. The question of what the most common depression symptoms are is one of the most frequently searched for online.
It is important to know that depression is not only about considering suicide. It can take many forms and various combinations of symptoms, different for every depression sufferer.
Common Depression Symptoms
Depression can include but is not limited to any combination of the following symptoms:
- Restlessness – inability to sit still, picking at clothes, pacing
- Slowed movements, talking quietly and with delayed speech
- Changes in eating habits – overeating or loss of appetite
- Changes in sleeping patterns – insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
- Trouble with remembering details, concentration, and decision making
- Persistent headaches, cramps, aches, pains, and other physical symptoms
- Digestive problems that don’t ease up even after treatment
- Pessimism, hopelessness
- Guilt, feelings of worthlessness, and helplessness
- Sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- No interest in previously enjoyable activities, such as sex or hobbies
- Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
What separates a depressive disorder from a regular, temporary mood slump is the duration of these symptoms. If they persist for longer than two weeks, they can be characterized as a depressive disorder. But before you diagnose yourself, remember that it is necessary to see a medical professional or a mental health specialist for diagnosing depression and receiving treatment.
Treatment for depression may involve regularly taking prescribed antidepressant medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (talking to a specialist). Severe depression may also lead to electroconvulsive therapy, which is incredibly safe and effective today.
Causes of Depression
Unlike most other illnesses, depression doesn’t have a single exact cause. It is more often a combination of factors that leads to a depressive disorder. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the primary causes of this mental health condition can include:
- Genetics. Mood disorders tend to run in the family.
- Life circumstances. Major life changes, especially adverse events – divorce or breakup, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, eviction, and similar.
- Trauma. Trauma at any point in life, but especially at an early age, can lead to depression.
- Changes in brain function. Some studies have found that the frontal lobe, pituitary gland, and hypothalamus function differently in depressive states.
- Medical conditions and medication. People with a history of illness, sleep disturbances, chronic pain, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder have a higher chance of developing depression. It can also be caused by some medication.
- Substance abuse. Drug and alcohol abuse can trigger depression. These co-occurring disorders can also worsen symptoms of depression.
Depending on the cause of the symptoms and their nature, there are different types of depression a person can be diagnosed with. Here is a list of the most common types of depression and what they mean:
- Major Depression
Also called major depressive disorder, this is one of the most prevalent depressive disorders. If you have at least five of the symptoms mentioned above that last for at least two weeks, your doctor may diagnose you with major depression. Typically, one of the symptoms must be a loss of interest in activities or a depressed mood.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder
Another name for persistent depressive disorder is dysthymia. This is chronic depression that involves losing interest in daily activities, a significant decrease in productivity and self-esteem, and a general feeling of inadequacy. An individual suffering from dysthymia may experience an alleviation in symptoms from time to time, but usually, the depressive moods last for at least two months. They may also experience major depression at the same time – a state labeled as double depression.
- Bipolar Disorder
Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a complex mental illness. It involves alternating episodes of mania and depression. Mania is characterized by insomnia accompanied by psychosis, hallucinations, paranoid rage, or grandiose delusions. In contrast, a depressive episode tends to be more severe than the above-mentioned depressive disorders.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal depression usually occurs in the winter months, when the days are shorter and people are exposed to less sunlight. It is a season-dependent period of major depression that typically goes away in spring and summer. Its symptoms include weight gain, low energy levels, and oversleeping.
However, there are also examples of SAD during spring and summer. Symptoms of this type of SAD are the opposite of winter SAD – weight loss, insomnia, and agitation or anxiety.
- Postpartum Depression
Many women experience depressive symptoms after giving birth. It can also be a full-blown major depression even during pregnancy (prepartum). Postpartum depression manifests with anxiety, extreme sadness, and exhaustion that complicates daily activities for new mothers. They often find it challenging to care for their newborns as well as for themselves.
- Psychotic Depression
Unlike bipolar depression with manic episodes followed by depressive episodes, in psychotic depression, the symptoms of major depression go right alongside psychotic symptoms. These can be delusions (false beliefs), hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t real), and paranoia (wrongly believing that other people are trying to harm you).
Most people think that depression is restricted to being sad and wanting to end one’s life. However, the truth is that different people experience depression in different ways. What combination of symptoms one suffers from depends on the cause and, consequently, the type of depression. Even two people who have the same diagnosis might not experience the same issues.
If you suspect you might be depressed, researching the illness is a good idea. But keep in mind that you shouldn’t, by any means, self-diagnose. Depression of any type requires the attention of a mental health professional who will then prescribe the right treatment for your specific case. Just like no two depressive disorders are the same, no two treatment plans are the same, either.
Take steps to preserve your mental health, especially if it is affecting your daily life.
If you’d like more information on depression and how to treat it, don’t hesitate to reach out to The Right Way Recovery. We can help you determine the nature of your mental health issues and what you can do to get better.