Guest Author Ericka Martin, MA, LMHC – Star Meadow Counseling
Depression is one of the most common mental health concerns in the United States. In 2016, for example, over 16 million American adults experienced an episode of major depressive disorder, according to the National Institute on Mental Health.
Despite its prevalence, depression continues to be tough for most people to recognize—in others or themselves. Many people who are actually suffering shrug off their symptoms because they might still be able to go to work or keep on top of their to-do list most days. If they can function, it can’t possibly be a mental health disorder, right?
The truth is, depression doesn’t always mean being totally debilitated, although it can for some people. Even milder forms of depression may have negative effects on the mind and body. Here are some of the symptoms of depression you may notice.
1. Persistent feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, or shame.
Depression is often associated with feeling sad, but sometimes there’s a total lack of emotion; you feel nothing. Other times, you might feel pessimistic, anxious, worthless, guilty, or that you are a “failure” and a burden to your loved ones.
2. Loss of interest of pleasure in things you used to enjoy.
The hobbies and activities that used to motivate you to jump out of bed in the morning may suddenly seem unappealing or not worth the effort.
3. Lack of energy and slow movements.
When you have depression, little things seem to take so much more work due to overwhelming lethargy and fatigue. Making healthy dinners at night or even taking regular showers may feel like monumental tasks, so getting through the day feels exhausting. This lethargy may even be visible to others: they may notice you are moving or talking more slowly.
4. Sleeping too much—or not enough.
With depression, you may find yourself constantly tired and therefore constantly attached to your pillow. But you might also wake up frequently throughout the night, meaning you are getting poor-quality sleep and will likely be tired the next day. On the other hand, you might struggle with insomnia.
5. Changes in appetite and weight.
Some people lose their appetite with depression and may end up losing weight; others eat more, particularly “comfort foods,” and may end up gaining weight. This may be due to changes in the “reward” regions of the brain, according to a 2016 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
6. Aches and pains in the head and body.
Headaches, muscle cramps, and digestive problems may occur for some people with depression. The gut and brain are constantly sending messages to each other, and when something is wrong in the brain, your gut might get the memo and experience diarrhea, constipation, or bloating.
7. Cognitive impairment.
You might feel “out of it” and have trouble with working memory, processing speed, concentration, and decision-making. Insomnia and poor nutrition may make the cognitive dysfunction worse.
8. Decreased sex drive.
People with depression are disproportionately affected by reduced libido and sexual dysfunction. And it’s a cruel cycle: the blunted libido may also worsen feelings of depression.
If your daily life is plagued by any of these symptoms, talking to a mental health professional can help figure out what you need to live a better, healthier life. Depression is an illness—not a personality quirk—and it can be treated.
Ericka is a licensed mental health counselor and the owner of Star Meadow Counseling, Ericka has provided therapy to adults and teens in individual and group settings. She loves to watch people grow and heal in their relationships.