09 Jul Am I Depressed?
What is Depression? “Depression” is such a common word these days but do you really know what it is?
Depression is a normal mood. We all have moments when our mood is low and we’re really struggling to push through the day. At these times we may feel as though it’s all too hard. We all experience this from time-to-time, but then the moment passes and we get back to life. This is okay. Not necessarily pleasant but okay because it’s normal.
What’s not normal is when you can’t snap out of this low mood. When it’s present most days and lasts for at least a couple of weeks then you may be suffering from “clinical depression”, also known as a “major depressive disorder”. This is what people normally mean when they use the word “depression”.
A major depressive disorder has a range of symptoms:
- Persistent depressed mood.
You may find that your mood low most of the time. It may lift from time-to-time but overall you feel pretty miserable on most days and for most of the day.
- Lack of motivation or pleasure in life.You might also have lost motivation for things you’re normally quite interested in or find that few things bring you any sort of pleasure.
- Depressed thinking.
Your thinking may also become quite dark. You may feel like you, the future, or the world is pretty hopeless, worthless or pointless. Sometimes people also feel guilty about things they’ve done or not done.
- Thoughts of death.
Thoughts of death or suicide may also be more common than usual. You might not necessarily be suicidal but even just think about death as a way of respite (rest) from your situation (e.g. “I can’t wait til I’m gone”).
- Sleeping problems.
Your sleep patterns may change if you’re clinically depressed. It’s not uncommon for someone with clinical depression to just not be able to get out of bed, to have trouble getting to sleep, to wake up in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning and not be able to get back to sleep, or to wake up after a full night’s sleep still feeling totally exhausted.
- Appetite and/or weight changes.
If you’re clinically depressed you may find you don’t feel like eating much or alternatively may experience more cravings for food. You may also notice changes in body weight. This can be either increased or decreased weight and may not be directly attributable to changes in diet (i.e. you may put on weight even though you’re not eating more than usual).
- Concentration problems.Trouble remembering things, focusing on tasks or thinking clearly are also common when someone has clinical depression. For instance you may find you read over the same few paragraphs of a book but it never sinks in; we may forget people’s names, conversations, or chores we need to perform; or just not have the mental energy to stay focused on a task. Obviously this can cause real problems both at work and home.
- Fatigue and energy loss.
Your energy levels may drop when if you have depression.
- Heavy or restless body.
Because our energy levels decrease when we are depressed we may also feel heavy in the body. Some people also report being physically restless or agitated. Interestingly, the physical symptoms of clinical depression can vary across cultures. For instance, some people from Asian cultures may experience more fatigue, aching and heaviness in the body, whereas
As you can see the symptoms of a major depressive disorder vary widely. Because of this variation it’s important you seek help from a trained professional who can correctly assess and diagnose if you think you may be clinically depressed. That includes your local doctor or clinical psychologist. If you’re concerned that you may have clinical depression then contact us for support at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can help you.
Written by Geoff Lyons, clinical psychologist from the Sutherland Shire of Sydney.
Photo Credit: beyondblue.org.au