9 signs of depression you should pay attention to.
Part of the problem with depression and anxiety is that there is a misconception of what they actually feel/look like. Depression is not just sadness, it is not just feeling hopeless, or feeling suicidal. There are other signs that are often misunderstood, missed, ignored or written off as just ‘having a bad week, month, year’. So they end up compounding, getting worse and making an individual feel like they are alone, disconnecting, unloved and not worthy… No one should be ashamed to ask for help. No one should have to be in the middle of a distressing breakdown to prove to others they are not well. If any of these seem familiar, or have gotten worse recently, it’s time to reassess, ask for help, let your loved ones know, let your doctor know, let me know.
1. You're in pain.
Mental distress and pain share some of the same biological pathways and neurotransmitters. Like one of awesome friends once told me ‘it’s only chemical’. - that simple phrase helped me at a point in my life where I really had had enough of living in perpetual panic, it was killing me. About 75% of people who suffer from depression also deal with recurring or chronic pain. In a recent study it was found that people with depression were four times more likely to have intense or disabling neck and low back pain than those without. If my neck blows out, I immediately, reboot. Meaning, I know something isn’t right. I open the toolbox and get out what I need, massage, swimming, yoga and breathing exercises. You might also notice other signs like stomachaches and headaches, or just experience greater sensitivity to pain in general. Pain also decreases your ability to cope with emotional pain, so it’s important to look beyond just how you feel physically if pain is causing turmoil in your day-to-day life.
2. You're busting out of your pants, or they’re falling off your body.
I’ve been on both sides of this coin. Depression has caused me to overeat and anxiety has caused my to lose so much weight people started to worry.
Comfort food can raise levels of the mood-boosting brain chemical serotonin, but over time emotional eating can lead to weight gain and feelings of guilt and shame, plus it does nothing to treat the underlying cause. This isn’t anything to do with body shaming either, if you eat what you like and you have a balanced lifestyle and you’re life is full of joy – carry on with abandon!
I was at a café recently, which was mostly vegan (ie. Plant based, sugar free, natural – very good for you) and someone said, I love this food but it does feel like something’s missing. She was right, the food wasn’t getting her high.
When observing your state of mind, bear in mind that food can act just like any other mood enhancing drug can. Get some smoothies in ya, some hot soup, some veges and fruit. I know, I know, what a drag…but I promise I’m only looking out for you.
Anxiety because of your heightened sense of ‘oh fuck I’m going to die’ any minute has the opposite effective. Adrenaline, cortisol all running your veins telling you, you don’t have to eat, you just have to RUN!!! From what? To what? Nothing. Just your messed up brain. Smoothies and juices helped me with this. Even if I wasn’t eating a meal, at the very least I was getting something into me. Also, I know you’ll hate me for this but you need Cardio. Cardio. Cardio. Get that heart rate up, it’ll do two things – decrease the adrenaline and it’ll increase you appetite. I promise.
3. You have a short fuse.
Angry, angry, angry. If the slightest mishap sends you into a rage, or little things make you want to put your fist through a wall, or you just want to start a riot in general and it’s been an on-going passion of yours, it’s time to consider whether this is a symptom of depression.
"Once you’re on the negative side of the house, you're more accessible to the rooms where other negative moods hang out—irritability, frustration and anger," says Simon Rego, PsyD, associate professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center. "You're not directly there, but it's a short walk."
I spent a long time in those rooms. Angry, frustrated and convinced the universe was working against me. I took out on my partner. He stills loves me. What a guy.
Meditation and yoga dude, I know, I know. I keep banging on about it but I genuinely believe yoga can make you a better person. Try it, prove me wrong if you dare!
4. You feel nothing.
Most of us have motivations that get us out of bed in the morning - work, exercise, dogs, kids, it’s that burning desire to get back to or be with the ones you love. But what if you just don’t care anymore? What if the thought of your beautiful little pooch, or your head strong, amazing kid does nothing for you and you’d rather pull the covers over your head and pretend they don’t exist?
It’s a warning sign.
Tell them. Tell those people you love that you feel empty and that there must be a reason for this. Tell your kids; they deserve to know that depression is real. They deserve to know this symptom. Tell your doggie, he’ll love you no matter what – you know that. And remember, this is temporary, this will not last forever.
5. Your evening glass of wine is now three.
Here’s one that I ignored for a long time. If you're having several glasses of alcohol every night, it's probably more than a rough day at work. There’s no denying that depression and alcohol are linked. Nearly one-third of people with depression also have problem with the ol’ ethanol, research shows. Let me tell you now - one drink can feel like it takes the edge off. A second or third can maybe put your to sleep, a four or fifth will absolutely beyond reasonable doubt amplify negative emotions—anger, aggressiveness, anxiety, and greater sadness. Plus, it’ll make your poor body stressed out trying to process and get the rid of the poison. If you’re waking up between 3am and 4am in the morning let me tell you this - that’s your liver and your kidneys pleading with you to take it easy.
Lately, I’ve had people tell me that their impression of an alcoholic is still that old fashion notion of the ‘bum’ on the street drinking whisky. Think again. You don't have to be homeless and downing Jamieson to be abusing alcohol. My person opinion of a healthy limit is zero. But, if you must – stick to one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men.
6. You're glued to Facebook...
Or gambling or shopping...basically doing anything in excess, especially online. Several studies confirm that people who go online compulsively and have more virtual social interactions than real ones may be depressed. Your likes are giving you a shot of dopamine and you're hooked. Perhaps monitor how many times you pick up your phone in a day, practice an hour without it, take a class where you can’t have your phone on you.
I’ll keep this one short and sweet because I can tell you now. I struggle so much with this one.
7. Your head is in the clouds.
Daydreaming a lot lately? Is it causing you to be unable to concentrate? Make decisions? Have you gotten lost on your way home, even although you’ve driven that route a million ways before? (That happened to me, it was terrifying)
Psychologists from Harvard University have shown that we're happiest when our minds are firmly rooted in the present moment, and when our minds wander, it can make us wistful, anxious, and unhappy. While daydreaming can help find creative solutions to problems, more often than not it's linked to signs of low mood and anxiety.
I practice breathing exercises if I’m drifting off. I also use the ‘five senses’ technique – what can I see, what can I hear, what can I smell, touch and taste. It means your brain needs to come back to what is right in front of you, right where you are.
8. You can't make up your mind.
We make upwards of 70 conscious decisions every day, Columbia University research shows, and most of them are no-brainers. Snooze or wake up? Get dressed or stay in pajamas? Cereal or eggs.
Depression can make these decisions so hard it can reduce us to tears. Pay attention to this, you may need extra support. It’s distressing but just like feeling numb, this is temporary. Remember – it’s all chemical.
9. You've stopped combing your hair, or washing your pits.
I remember that showering felt like I was standing at the start of a marathon. Laundry was worse, that felt like base camp, looking up to the top of Everest. It was exhausting even thinking about ironing a shirt or brushing my teeth. I spent many a weekend lying in my own filth because it was much easier than turning the shower on.
In a 2014 survey of more than 10,000 people, 61% who had poor oral health reported suffering depression. And the more dental issues they had, the more severe the problem was.
It's a spectrum, neglecting your physical appearance is only problematic when it crosses over into distress or dysfunction. Ultimately, not caring what you look like on the outside is a strong sign of problems happening on the inside. Pay attention to this. Tell someone. Having someone help you with this, maybe run you a both or even wash some clothes for you can really be a lifesaver.
Pay attention to your body, your surroundings, your emotions, your appearance, and your alcohol consumption.
Depression – it’s not just feeling sad.