Today’s post was written by Jason Kaefer, a case manager in Caminar's New Ventures Program with years of experience in human services. He also writes extensively on the use of coping skills to support independence, mindfulness, and happiness to those struggling with mental illness. He also recently contributed the post Energize Your Diet to our blog.
Identifying depression in yourself or a loved one can be difficult. Understand that the symptoms are sneaky; not every person reveals consistent signs with one another, signs that are unusual and downright frustrating, and may force you to think they're symptoms of something else altogether. For example, a person who exhibits anger and irritability would, by most onlookers, be classified as "some jerk" who needs anger management. Many folks will live with this issue assuming their lives are stagnant and the dramatic emotions, whether highs and lows or irritability, will remain with them and should best be lived with rather than being dealt with. But this doesn't have to be you or anyone you know and love. Depression manifests in a variety of ways:
There's tired, and then there's TIRED. I'm sure you know the difference, and then there's fatigue. Fatigue will leave you feeling as though your muscles have been subjected to shock therapy for seven hours followed by mental, muscular, and marrow-deep exhaustion. Certain exhaustion can be attributed to an overworked schedule, stress, and lack of sleep, and often is abolished after returning to a healthy sleep cycle. But if you find that you're tired with no reason, or still tired after 7-8 hours of sleep, be aware of the link between depression and fatigue. According to ZME Science, "Depression affects appetite and sleep — both vital to generating and replenishing energy. In most cases, patients report insomnia and getting less sleep, though an overabundance will also ruin your mood and energy levels."
Loss of interest
This is where it gets blurry; people lose interest all the time. Teenagers, for example, enter and exit phases the way ocean tides recede and return. A person's grooming and hygiene should be noted. If depression is suspected, a person might neglect their hygiene as well as bathing habits. Loss of interest in sex, social gatherings, and other activities the individual may have been heavily invested in should be examined. It's important to understand the difference between temporary and long-term loss of interest. Lack of interest may also lead to little to no motivation in exploring new possibilities in life, which is why a friend or loved one should remain diligent in following up on such changes.
When a friend or a family member becomes irritable with you, it may often be a cause unrelated to the situation, and is often dismissed as a bad day and won't be revisited for some time. Most often there is a relatable cause. There are, however, links between anger and depression. According to Psychology Today, individuals with depression experience intense inner conflict that often results in angry outbursts. "Getting angry at these ‘voices’ can be liberating, but that means getting in touch with our core feelings of anger rather than aiming it at ourselves. For example, when we may feel angry at the cruel way we treat ourselves today, we’re in touch with our adaptive anger, and we feel like we’re on our own side. Letting ourselves feel and express adaptive anger can help us feel less burdened, freer, and more in touch with our real self."
The most serious predicament is suicidal thoughts. If you or anyone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately. The National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7 trained assistance to de-escalate and prevent crises. For more information, also check out the LifeLine link.
These symptoms can be difficult to spot. If you believe you or a loved one are experiencing depression, reach out and stay connected. Make socializing a priority, no matter hard it seems. Many people with depression tend to isolate as it gets worse. Know that help is just a call away. You don’t need to be alone. For example, a doctor can direct you toward possible medication, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), as well as support groups.
This post has been peer reviewed.