Depression is extremely common, it affects over 300 million people and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. At its most severe, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide. Depression does not discriminate and can affect people from all walks of life - many successful people experience depression at least once in their lifetime. This article focuses on depression symptoms and the warning signs that can help the diagnosis of a patient or loved one suffering from the illness.
What is depression?
Depression can be categorised from mild to severe, depending on the duration and severity of the symptoms experienced.
People who suffer from mild depression may find it has a limited negative effect on their life. They may find it difficult to concentrate at work or school. They may also have a lack of motivation to partake in activities they would normally enjoy.
Whereas, those who suffer from severe depression may find it has an impact on all areas of daily life, perhaps finding it difficult to partake in any social, school or work activities. They may also find it has a physical effect, such as a loss of appetite, trouble sleeping or lead to other health problems.
There are effective treatments for depression but less than half of all sufferers receive such treatment and, in some countries, this falls to less than 1 in 10. Although there are many reasons for this low uptake in treatment, the main reason is depression’s difficult diagnosis. Depression symptoms are not always easy to identify. Being aware of the warning signs can be the difference between getting the help needed or not.
Depression symptoms and warning signs - how to identify them
There is still a social stigma to mental disorders and those who suffer from depression may be uncomfortable approaching friends, family or health providers for help. They may even try to hide their symptoms and feelings from loved ones.
Depression symptoms can manifest themselves in a number of emotional and physical formats. The following is a list of warning signs to look out for that can aid an early diagnosis:
- Irritability – some people who are suffering from depression may find that they lose their temper or become irritable at relatively minor things.
- Reduced sex drive – depression can have a negative effect on a sufferer's desire for, or enjoyment of, sex.
- Insomnia – depression can result in finding it difficult to sleep. This could be due to stress or anxiety, and some sufferers may turn to alcohol or sleeping medication as a result.
- Excessive sleeping – conversely, some sufferers may find it difficult to wake up and may spend excessive time sleeping. They may also feel overly tired and require sleep at inappropriate times.
- Loss of appetite – due to a mixture of anxiety and fatigue, some sufferers may have a reduced or lost appetite.
- Restlessness – depression does not remove the desire for activity or interaction, just a reduced ability to partake. This may manifest itself in subconscious movements such as foot tapping or twitching.
- Lack of concentration – sufferers may find it difficult to focus on an activity for a significant amount of time or that their focus is easily distracted.
- Fatigue – due to a number of other symptoms, fatigue is a likely consequence of depression.
- Loss of confidence – people who suffer from depression may focus on the potential negative outcome of activities and lose confidence in their ability to perform tasks.
- Feelings of guilt – there may be a feeling of guilt for having depression and its consequential impact. Sufferers may feel that they are a burden to loved ones.
- Focusing on failures – people with depression may focus on mistakes they make or have made in the past, no matter how trivial.
- Forgetfulness – people who have depression may find themselves more forgetful and that both important and non-important things easily slip their mind.
- Heightened emotions – emotions may vary significantly across the spectrum of happiness and sadness. Sufferers may shift from extreme happiness to crying for little or no reason.
- Focus on death – people with depression may find themselves dwelling on thoughts of death. This may be thoughts of their own mortality or the death of a loved one.
- Physical pains – depression can have a physical impact with frequent headaches, migraines or feelings of nausea common.
Whilst this list is not exhaustive if you identify with any of the warning signs discussed, or you spot them in a loved one or somebody close to you, professional help may be required. Go to our Mental health page for related online training courses.