6 Fundamental Signs of Depression
... and why so many of us get it wrong.
Posted Dec 09, 2016
We’ve come a long way in the treatment of mental illness, but there is still no consensus on the diagnosis and treatment of the most common of these, including depression.
A recent review of diagnostic tools, conducted by researchers at Universiteit van Amsterdam, revealed that there is relatively little consistency in how practitioners define and diagnose depression. For example, some diagnostic tools focus specifically on the physical symptoms of depression, such as loss of appetite and insomnia. Other tools asked patients about their moods and feelings, putting an emphasis on the mental and emotional symptoms of depression. Few diagnostic tools were comprehensive; most were biased toward either physical or emotional symptoms.
The study found, therefore, that different people qualify as "depressed" based on which diagnostic tool their therapist or psychologist chose to use. This inconsistency does a disservice to those seeking help, who may display a range of problematic symptoms.
We need comprehensive and consistent diagnostic tools to get people into the right supportive services. It is essential that all psychotherapists, particularly those in addiction treatment settings, understand and are able to recognize the symptoms of depression. Research has shown that approximately 50 percent of addicts suffer from a co-occurring psychological disorder, most often anxiety or depression. With such a high rate of occurrence, addiction treatment centers must be prepared to treat the dual-diagnosis client.
How can we quickly identify depression, as opposed to sadness or a passing feeling of the blues? Here are six key warning signs:
- Unwavering sadness. When sadness lasts for more than two weeks and doesn’t waver significantly, that is a warning sign of depression. This is especially true when there is no overt reason for this sadness. If you’ve just lost a loved one, longer-term sadness is likely part of the grief process. If you are sad for no specific reason, you should be concerned and seek help.
- Lack of interest in activities. If you once loved riding horses or playing with your kids and now you don’t care about those activities, consider that depression might be the reason.
- On its own, fatigue can indicate dozens and dozens of disorders, but when coupled with other signs from this list, it can be an indicator of depression. Depressed people simply don’t want to get up and do much of anything.
- Changes in sleep patterns. In combination with other symptoms, insomnia can be a sign of depression; so can needing far too much sleep.
- People who are depressed often have a short temper and lash out at others, even over small issues.
- Changes in eating patterns. Like sleep issues, overeating, or not eating, in conjunction with other symptoms, can indicate depression.
The most important thing is to remember that you know yourself—your mind and body. If you feel like you’re “off” in some way, seek help and don’t take no for an answer. There are useful, non-pharmaceutical tools that help most people with depression overcome their symptoms and improve their quality of life.