7 Depression Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore

7 Depression Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore

Here are seven depression red flags you might not know about.

Depression is more than an emotional slump—it lasts longer, is more severe and affects your ability to complete everyday tasks. Despite this, its symptoms are often brushed off because they can be vauge and easily mistaken for other conditions. Additionally, depression can look and feel different from person to person. In fact, you don’t need to experience all of the symptoms on this list to have a form of depression or to benefit from seeking help. 

The two major signs of depression are a persistent feeling of sadness or hopelessness, plus a loss of interest in your favorite activities. If you or someone you know feels this way for longer than two weeks—along with some or all of the following symptoms—reach out to your healthcare provider or a counselor. A licensed mental health professional can provide resources and support, and talking about your experience is an essential part of depression treatment. 

1. Trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much 
You might associate depression with wanting to stay in bed all day—and that is the case for many people. Hypersomnia, or sleeping too much, is especially common in women and young adults, affecting about 40 percent of those with depression under age 30.  

But depression can affect your sleep cycle in several ways. About 75 percent of people with depression develop insomnia, or the inability to fall or stay asleep. And sleeplessness doesn’t just arise from having a lot on your mind—depression may alter the underlying biological processes that help you sleep, called your circadian rhythm.  

That’s only one reason why you shouldn’t downplay poor sleep, which also can expose you to safety hazards like distracted driving and raise your risk of other conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Chronic sleep problems also up your odds of relapsing after starting depression treatment.  

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of shut-eye per night. Tell your counselor if this hasn’t been happening for you. They may suggest lifestyle changes, update your medication regimen or connect you with a sleep specialist.    

2. Feeling exhausted all the time 
Depression can drain your energy as well as your emotions, which can get in the way of completing important tasks. Exhaustion can result from poor sleep and/or contribute to sleeping too much. Additionally, feeling drained can keep you from being emotionally present—or physically showing up—for the personal and professional milestones that matter. This, in turn, can fuel feelings of worthlessness and worsen your depression overall. 

3. Acting restless or jittery  
Yes, depression can make you feel slow and listless, but some people may become restless or irritable instead. You might find yourself pacing, wringing your hands, or feeling unable to sit still. While restlessness is fairly common with depression, don’t overlook this symptom. It could be a side effect of your antidepressant, indicating that your prescriber needs to modify your meds.   

4. Having a hard time focusing 
With depression, it’s common to experience brain fog or to find yourself easily distracted. This lack of focus can interfere with your ability to finish tasks and meet deadlines.

Older adults don’t always feel sadness as their main symptom of depression; they may have difficulty concentrating instead. Also, the signs can be similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease. That means it’s important for older adults who are being tested for dementia to be screened for depression as well to ensure a correct diagnosis. 

5. Losing or gaining weight 
Losing interest in the activities that once brought you joy is a hallmark symptom of depression—and that can include a loss of interest in food. Your appetite can change for many reasons, but eating less and less every day for about a month might mean your pleasure response isn’t working properly. 

Eating increasingly large amounts of food every day is another depression red flag. You may crave indulgent comfort foods, which can lead to a vicious cycle of poor body image, low self-esteem and binge eating to self-soothe. 

6. Feeling guilty, inadequate or like a failure 
Does your mind ruminate, or run through the same negative self-thoughts over and over? Do you carry around feelings of guilt or worthlessness—even about minor, everyday interactions? You’re not alone; many people with depression report these thoughts and feelings.   

7. Persistent thoughts about death, self-injury or suicide 
If you experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide, don’t wait to tell someone. Contact your counselor right away or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or TTY 1-800-799-4889. A licensed mental health professional will listen and guide you in taking steps to stay safe. Ask a friend or a family member to stay with you until you can get the help you need. 

Likewise, if someone you know is contemplating suicide, don’t stay quiet because you’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. It’s okay to ask them in a calm, non-judgmental way, "Do you ever feel so bad that you think about suicide?" This won’t put the idea in their head, but it can prompt them to seek help. If you learn they are actively planning suicide: 

  • Stay with them or keep them on the phone 
  • Use another line to call 911 
  • And/or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 

If you have depression, seeking treatment can seem overwhelming, but don’t ignore your symptoms. There are options—including antidepressants, talk therapy, lifestyle changes and more—that can help you feel like yourself again. 

Medically reviewed in June 2018.

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