Many of depression’s symptoms are also common parts of normal life. As a result, patients and their families may find it difficult to understand or recognize it as a mental disorder. However, key differences in the duration, causes and strength of symptoms can distinguish between feeling down and having depression.
What Emotions Indicate Depression
A person’s prevailing emotions are central to identifying depression. A person with depression will suffer from at least one of the following problems: first, an inability to be interested in or pleased by any previously enjoyable activity; second, having feelings of sadness or emptiness for most of the time during most days. Other emotional symptoms of depression can include inappropriate feelings of guilt or worthlessness, or a preoccupation with thoughts of death.
How Depression’s Symptoms Function
The effects of depression often impair a patient’s functioning in the following ways:
- A shift in speed – Depression can make people either dramatically slow down their speech and actions, or move restlessly with nervous energy
- Fatigue – Feeling tired or worn out no matter how much sleep or rest is had
- Clouded thinking – An inability to concentrate or think clearly
The problems with functioning may be the strongest outward signs of depression.
Physical Symptoms of Depression
Weight fluctuations are physical symptoms of depression. Craving extra food due to depression leads to weight gain, while other patients experience a loss of appetite and lose weight quickly. Sleep problems are the other strong physical symptoms of depression. Some patients may be tormented with insomnia, while others will sleep long hours. Body aches, headaches, dizzy spells and digestive problems can also indicate depression, but they are not among the disorder’s defining symptoms.
Duration, Quantity and Causes of Depression Symptoms
People can experience many problems without having depression, but the following three factors help distinguish between sadness and depression:
- Quantity – At least five of the aforementioned physical symptoms
- Duration – The symptoms persist longer than two weeks
- Cause – The symptoms are not tied to a specific problem or loss
A person who feels down can move forward emotionally without help. However, someone with depression becomes stuck in a recurring pattern of depression symptoms.
How to Treat Depression
Even with a complete understanding of depression, self-diagnosing yourself is unreliable. People with depression cannot accurately recognize the severity of their symptoms, while people who simply feel down may overstate the scope of their own problems. There is great value in getting a professional diagnosis for depression. If depression turns out not to be present, another treatable disorder, such as bipolar disorder, may be uncovered.
Help For Depression
If you or someone you know shows signs of depression, then call our 24 hour, toll-free helpline to learn more about diagnosis and treatment. Seek help to recover from this problem.