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If feeling low is something you’ve been living with on a daily basis for a period of over two weeks, then it’s possible you could be suffering from depression rather than just a low mood.
It’s normal to get a case of the “the blues” occasionally, particularly if you’ve had a difficult day or you’ve recently been through a stressful period. After all, sadness is an emotion, just like happiness. Our emotions are constantly in motion, moving up and down throughout our daily lives... But it’s here where the difference lies when it comes to talking about depression: emotions are fleeting, depression isn’t. If feeling low is something you’ve been living with on a daily basis for a period of over two weeks, then it’s possible you could be suffering from depression rather than just a low mood.
More common than you think...
The word depression can conjure up scary thoughts for some people, but it’s helpful to remind ourselves that it’s actually very common. It’s thought that at least 1 in 5 people will suffer a depressive episode at some point during their lifetime. And whilst it’s possible to suffer depression at any age, it’s more likely that you’ll experience it later in life.
Depression might have a clear cause, and come about suddenly following a specific traumatic life event like being in an accident or losing a loved one. But sometimes the instigator isn’t always so clear. Depression can also creep up over time and have no clear cause. Similarly, it might look and feel different depending on the person. One person might experience a sense of hopelessness and despair, another might find they feel ‘empty’ and no longer enjoy the things they once loved.
Depression can appear as mild, moderate or severe. And it can also change shape, moving from one ‘level’ to another over time - lasting anywhere from a few weeks, months and sometimes many years.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to talking about depression. However, whilst that might be the case, there are some common markers to look out for that might help determine whether you or someone you know is experiencing more than just bad patch. We’ve compiled a few common symptoms that signal it might be time to seek support:
Lack of pleasure
There’s nothing wrong with taking a duvet day every now and then, but when you find yourself completely losing the motivation to do things you once loved, then it could be time to take a closer look. Depression can make you lose interest in activities they once really enjoyed. Some people describe this as making them feel very flat or a sense of numbness.
Hopelessness and despair
Feeling down can bring about a whole range of uncomfortable emotions, but depression has a habit off feeding off this cycle and making it much worse. If negative thinking is making you feel like you’re always expecting the worst, bringing with it a sense of doom or hopelessness, then it might be time to reach out.
Pulling away from social interactions
Most depressed people will find that they start to pull away from social gatherings and isolate themselves from their friends, family and loved ones. This could mean communicating less - not answering calls, text messages, emails… Or perhaps still interacting socially, but finding it difficult to relate to those closest to them in the same way.
Feeling tired or changes in sleep
People suffering from depression will often find that their sleep patterns change. This could involve waking up earlier or later than usual - or waking up feeling unrefreshed, despite having had a full night’s sleep.
We all have days when we wake up on the “wrong side of the bed”, but someone living with depression will experience more severe and lasting changes in mood. This might make them appear more irritable, lash out more frequently or struggle to hold down meaningful conversations with their friends and family.
The cognitive symptoms of depression tend to be less talked about but can be extremely challenging. Someone living with depression might struggle with their memory, or have difficulty concentrating and/or initiating and finishing tasks.
It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, but a person living with depression might take this to the extreme, telling themselves that they’re not ‘good enough’. This can present in different ways like, blaming yourself for someone else’s wrongdoing, or becoming self-critical about situations that haven’t gone to plan.
Negative and suicidal thoughts
A depressed person will normally take on a very negative dialogue which makes them feel hopeless, anticipating the worst in every situation. Sometimes the despair is so overwhelming that it causes thoughts of self-harm. These thoughts might be passing or become very frequent. If you’re having any thoughts of self-harm, please leave this site immediately and dial 999 or 112 for emergency services. Or contact Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123.
Whilst getting familiar with some of the symptoms of depression can be helpful, at the end of the day you know yourself best. If you’ve been feeling ‘off’ or down more than usual, then always listen to your instincts. Never forget that depression is a real illness. It might not be visible in the same way as a physical illness, but it can be equally damaging if left untreated. Depression isn’t a weakness, and you're not expected to power through and go it alone. Recognising that you have a problem is a really big step in turning things around for the better.
At its worst, depression can make you feel hopeless. But remember there's always hope. Always remember that depression is treatable. There are lots of effective, established treatments that can help you work your way out of the darkness. Some people even come out the other side and see it as something that was ultimately good, encouraging them to delve deeper into themselves and make real, positive changes in their life.
Therapy can be a powerful tool in treating depression. A therapist will provide a listening ear and help you understand some of the ways in which you might be holding yourself back. Many people find that just having someone to talk to outside of their immediate circle helps to lighten the heaviness that often accompanies depression. A therapist will work with you to create more positive ways of thinking, and also make the necessary lifestyle changes needed to build a healthier frame of mind.