How to recognize the signs and when to seek help
Feeling a little sad every once in a while is normal. But if you’re in the throes of a dark, unrelenting hopelessness—one gripping you so tight you can’t handle your everyday life—it’s time to sit up and take notice. You could be one of the 7 percent of adults who suffers from clinical depression, and you’ll need to seek professional help.
If you’re in the middle of the symptoms, you might not realize it. Because, let’s face it, we all experience some of these symptoms at one point or another in our lives. But if you see several of the following signs at the same time—for several weeks (or months)—it’s a good bet you’re depressed:
Your sleep patterns have gone haywire. All you want to do is sleep. It’s as if you’ve found a refuge from the sadness under the covers. Or you’re too wired and restless to sleep, perhaps even suffering from insomnia.
Your appetite has changed. Depression can leave some people without much of an appetite. They may be too preoccupied with their thoughts to remember to eat or have little interest in cooking. For some, however, depression has the opposite effect, and they find themselves constantly overeating.
Exhaustion is your new best friend. Whether it’s because you’re not sleeping enough or feeling sad all the time, depression can make you tired. If you’re so exhausted and overwhelmed that taking a shower seems like more than you can handle, it’s time to see a doctor.
It’s the little things … and they’re making you irritable. Emotional pain can blow things that would ordinarily roll off your back out of proportion, leaving you grumpy and on edge.
You can’t focus. Are you forgetting things or missing important deadlines? Does it feel as if you’re looking at your life through a gauzy film? That’s depression, and it can affect your memory and your critical decision-making skills.
You feel like you’re worthless. If your self-esteem is hovering near zero, and you’re constantly putting yourself down or feeling like you don’t measure up, that’s a major sign of depression.
Hobbies no longer hold your interest. You used to love curling up with a good book or hitting Atlantic City with the girls, but lately, things that you found fun no longer excite you. Not taking part in things you once enjoyed because they no longer give you pleasure is another hallmark of depression. Skipping the occasional weekly game of Spades is one thing, but repeatedly turning down invitations to activities you used to enjoy screams it’s time to talk to someone.
Ending it all is starting to look attractive. If you’re thinking about suicide almost every day and contemplating how you’d do it, seek professional help immediately.