In this article series I am going to be exploring the topic of depression.
Today I will discuss 10 signs that you may be experiencing depression.
Trigger warning – more so than with other articles, this article has the potential to be distressing to someone experiencing depression or someone who cares for someone with depression.
If you feel very low whilst reading, please stop and seek support.
Feeling low is just one of the signs of depression.
Feeling low doesn’t necessarily mean you are depressed. Feeling sad, empty or numb for short amounts of time is perfectly normal and just part of what it means to be human.
But if these feelings persist, they could be one of the signs that you are experiencing depression.
There are many signs which indicate you may be experiencing depression, rather than a passing low mood.
If you find yourself relating to these experiences strongly, its worth considering taking steps such as; reviewing self-help materials on depression, using the Every Mind Matters website to guide you, talking to a counsellor, or speaking with your NHS GP surgery about the support they offer for mental health.
So, what signs should you be looking out for? Here are a few.
1) A persistent negative change in your emotional state.
If you find yourself feeling sad and upset more than usual and this has been the case for a while, or you are struggling to feel positive emotions such as joy and achievement, then you may be experiencing depression.
Depression doesn’t always have to mean feeling sad though. You may feel numb, empty and unable to feel any emotions to the extent you ordinarily do. You could also find yourself switching from being sad or numb, to feeling angry and becoming easily irritated.
The way one person “feels” depression is not necessarily the same way another person will. But if there is a persistent negative change to your emotions, it’s worth considering that you may be depressed.
2) Struggling to feel happy, even when you are doing things you ordinarily enjoy.
We all have days where we are just “not feeling it” and can’t seem to shake ourselves out of a bad mood. But if you find that you are not getting enjoyment from many of the activities you would ordinarily, then this can be a sign.
If you normally enjoy walking the dog or playing video games, but recently feel like you can’t be bothered and are just not interested, it indicates an assumption that you will not find these activities enjoyable. Which brings us to our next point…
3) Limiting or stopping enjoyable activities.
When we assume we won’t get any enjoyment out of an activity we are far less likely to do it. Even if completing an activity could make us feel a little bit better, our assumption that it won’t can stop us from doing it.
Unfortunately, the worse we feel, the less of an impact activities will have on making us happy. So we do them less often, resulting in a quicker descent into depression than if we kept doing them (and they were making us slightly happier as a result).
4) Increasingly thinking self-critical thoughts.
Many of us will have grown up in an environment where self-confidence and positive self-talk was not a feature of day-to-day life. If we had parents or friends who were highly self-critical, it can seem “normal” to think more about negative traits than positive ones.
Whether or not this way of thinking has been the norm, an excessive amount of self-criticism is never helpful. When we become depressed the amount of negative self-talk we are exposed to increases. So even if you are used to criticising yourself, it can feel like two bullies have started picking on you, instead of one.
With all this self-persecution going on, it’s not surprising that depression can be difficult to overcome. What makes this even harder is that it’s common for people to feel guilty about having these negative thoughts.
Thoughts such as “I shouldn’t be thinking like this” and “This is silly, I’m just being weak letting myself think this way” only increase self-criticism, they do not make the person any better.
5) Becoming increasingly pessimistic.
Whether you are naturally an optimist (assuming things generally turn out OK) or a pessimist (assuming that things will go badly), depression can increase the amount of pessimistic thoughts you have.
So, if you are normally pretty happy to try new experiences, you may find yourself less willing to “give it a go”. If you are normally more cautious, you may find that this increases to the point where you assume almost anything you attempt will end badly or make you feel worse.
6) Losing hope.
When you lose hope, it may seem like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, it may seem as though the future will get worse rather than better, and there is nothing you can do to stop that from happening.
This way of thinking is particularly dangerous as thoughts like “What’s the point?” can lead to thoughts of suicide.
If you catch yourself losing hope and contemplating suicide, please do one or more of the following; ring the Samaritans on: 116 123 , call your GP and ask for an emergency appointment, call 111 (the NHS advice line) or (if you have already begun a suicide attempt and are seriously harmed) call 999.
7) Thinking about death or killing yourself.
As mentioned above, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts. Suicidal thoughts include thoughts that you would be better off dead, that others around you would be better off if you were dead or that you want to end your suffering through death.
Suicidal thoughts can range from thinking about suicide to making a plan for how you would do it.
But you don’t have to be having thoughts about actively killing yourself for it to be a concern. If you are having thoughts that “it wouldn’t be so bad” if you were to die naturally or in an accident, then you should also clock this as a possible sign of depression.
8) Feeling tired all the time.
If you find yourself reaching for the coffee more frequently or taking more naps during the day and can’t put your finger on what is zapping your energy, you may want to consider your mood.
You don’t need to be expending any more energy than normal to feel a lot more tired. If you are depressed, you will naturally have much less energy, even when completing your everyday tasks.
Feeling this sleepy can make it tempting to stay in bed for extended periods of time. And whilst it is important to rest, it can actually make you feel more tired if this is all you do.
9) Not doing much of anything.
Feeling pessimistic, negative and tired is likely going to mean you stop doing as much activity. This doesn’t just mean exercise, it can also mean things like housework and dealing with responsibilities.
Putting off exercise can make you feel more lethargic and increase negative self-talk. And delaying taking action on responsibilities can mean tasks mount up to the point where your to-do list seems unconquerable.
10) Shying away from social activities.
Its common for people experiencing depression to assume that others would not want to spend time with them, even if they are receiving social invitations.
Depression can cause people to twist positives into negatives. For example, someone with depression may believe they have only been invited to a group Zoom chat because people feel sorry for them, or because their friends feel obligated.
Depression can also make spending time around “happy” people seem intolerable, as the happiness of others acts as a reminder of how bad they feel inside.
It’s important to remember that you don’t ever know what is truly going on for people. So even if others seem much happier than you, you don’t know for sure that this is the case.
These 10 signs of depression are just the beginning of our exploration of the topic.
Because depression can make it difficult to concentrate, I am going to release my thoughts on depression in stages. If you are reading this article series after multiple articles are released, take a break before continuing to the next one.
I do hope you have found this conversation around the signs of depression helpful so far. If you think you are experiencing depression after reading this article, please don’t wait to read the next one before seeking help. Speak to a doctor, a trusted friend or relative and consider reaching out to a counsellor.
I have a helpful guide on how to go about finding a counsellor which you can read here.
Take care of yourself,