You can shake it off. It’s just a slump. No one wants to hear your problems.
If you’ve been saying these things to yourself, you’re not alone. Depression affects more than 15 million adults and is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people aged 15 to 44.
“The problem is that most people never receive any sort of treatment,” says Clayton Chau, MD, PhD, regional executive medical director for Providence St. Joseph Health’s Institute for Mental Health & Wellness. “This is concerning considering the damaging effects depression has on individuals and their families. Left untreated, it can become very serious, leading to drug abuse, deteriorating health issues and even suicide.”
Dr. Chau encourages individuals and families to seek help when they are struggling and remember they’re not alone. Knowing where to get help and recognizing when you or a loved one needs it are important steps.
Here’s what to watch for:
Sadness that doesn’t go away – Sadness that is temporary is normal, but with depression, the cloud does not lift for long periods of time. People who are depressed feel hopeless and helpless and often their daily functions and relationships start to suffer. You may think you’ve just hit a slump, but watch if long periods of difficulty continue.
Loss of interest in activities that once brought pleasure – People with depression put aside activities they once enjoyed, like playing catch in the yard or going to a ballgame. Instead, feelings of apathy or “numbness” overwhelm and there is a general loss of interest in experiencing friends or new events.
Flaring temper – It’s one thing to disagree with others from time to time, like when an umpire makes a call you don’t like. However, check yourself if you are arguing constantly or fly off the handle at the smallest incidences. If you find your anger escalating too easily, you could be struggling with unresolved problems that have led to depression.
Feeling tired all the time – Does it seem exhausting just to pick up things around the house? Does the thought of getting out of bed, showering and suiting up make you tired? With depression, negative energy is weighing you down, so it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the simplest chores. If you just don’t feel like you can cope with day-to-day activities, it’s time to seek professional help.
Obsession – People who are depressed start to do things obsessively so they can avoid social interaction. This includes eating, drinking or watching television to excess –all of which are distractions from facing serious issues. While it’s fine to want to watch a game at home from time to time, it’s not healthy to avoid a day outside with friends and family.
Weight gain or loss – Along with obsessive behavior and lack of activity, you may notice yourself losing muscle tone and gaining weight. Significant changes in weight while not attempting to gain or lose may be indicative of depression.
Sleep Disturbances – If you can’t catch your eight hours like you used to, it may be because you’re feeling restless or agitated more often. Another sign is feeling sleepy despite a full night's rest, or falling asleep during the day when you should be on task.
Wanting to be alone – True, some of us are introverts and others are extroverts. However, personalities don’t normally change very quickly. If you find that you don’t like being around people when you used to be Mr. or Ms. Popular, you may be facing a mental health issue. Shutting down and turning away from others makes the problem worse, so seeking help is essential.
There are other signs of depression, such as constant negativity and intense feelings of self-doubt. The most important thing to do is recognizing that mental health is just as important as physical health, so seeking medical attention is vital.
“Remember, you are not alone in dealing with a mental health issue,” Dr. Chau says. “Find a professional that you trust and get the care you need. As anyone who has addressed depression knows, you can feel better, improve your life and be back at the top of your game once more.”
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.