One of the first steps to getting help for depression is knowing how to identify it. Depression may occur only one time in a person’s life, appear intermittently or be a chronic condition. Often symptoms may vary depending on what type of depression a person is dealing with, their age, gender, brain chemistry and other factors. There are several common symptoms of depression that one can watch for those. These can include:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness and unhappiness
- Overreacting to small things with outbursts, irritability, anger or frustration
- Lack of interest or taking pleasure in former activities
- Altered pattern of sleep
- Apathy and lack of energy or incentive
- Excessive fatigue
- Changes in appetite
- Anxiety, restlessness and an inability to remain still
- Slower thinking, speaking and body movement
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt or self-blame
- Difficulty focusing thoughts, making decisions and recalling things
- Thoughts of death, suicide and possible suicidal attempts
- Unexplained pain such as back pain or headaches
Identifying types of depression
There are several types of depression ranging from mild to severe including minor depression, major depression, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and more. No two people are affected in exactly the same way. In diagnosing the specific kind of depression a person may have, a doctor may add information to one’s depression diagnosis to distinguish the particular type, this is known as a specifier. These include:
- Anxious distress – excessive restlessness accompanied by loss of control and worry about future events
- Mixed features – depression and mania which is manifested by racing thoughts and ideas, excessive talking and elevated self-esteem or ego
- Melancholic features – severe depression when nothing brings pleasure. It is associated with early rising, worsened mood in the morning, appetite changes and feelings of guilt and agitation
- Atypical features – able to be cheered by happy events, increased appetite, little need for sleep, sensitivity to rejection and a heavy feeling in arms or legs
- Psychotic features – depression which is accompanied by delusions or hallucinations which may involve personal inadequacy or negativity
- Catatonia – includes motor activity involving either uncontrollable and purposeless movement or a fixed and inflexible posture
- Peripartum onset – occurs during pregnancy or in the weeks or months following delivery
- Seasonal pattern – related to changes in seasons and diminished exposure to light: Sometimes referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder – SAD
Depression symptoms in children and teens
Symptoms are similar to those of adults but there can be some differences. Rather than showing a depressed mood, younger children may show signs of irritability, clinginess and worry. Children may also exhibit unexplained aches and pains, a reluctance to go to school and be underweight.
Similarly, teen symptoms of depression can include feeling negative and worthless, poor performance and/or poor attendance at school, feeling misunderstood and extremely sensitive, avoidance of social interaction and attempts at self-harm.
Depression may occur in combination with other mental health conditions such as anxiety, substance abuse or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – ADHD.
Depression symptoms in older adults
Depression is not considered to be normal as a person ages and symptoms should not be dismissed. Sadly, in older adults, depression often goes undiagnosed and therefore untreated. Older patients are often reluctant to seek medical help and their depression symptoms can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from the normal aging process. Symptoms include:
- Personality changes
- Memory difficulty
- Fatigue, aches, loss of appetite not attributable to a medical condition
- Reluctant to leave home to attend social gatherings
- Suicidal thoughts
Depression often worsens if left untreated which in turn can lead to other mental and physical health problems including drug or alcohol abuse and suicidal thoughts and actions. If you or a loved one believes you may be suffering from depression, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible. If you are reluctant to seek treatment, at least talk to a friend, family member, spiritual leader or someone you know you can trust and tell them how you feel.
Depression is no respecter of age, gender or ethnicity — it is an equal opportunity disease which can strike anyone at any time. However, help is available, so that those with depression can live fuller, happier lives.
By reaching out to the Arizona Depression Helpline you are taking the first steps on the path of recovery from depression. Speak to a member of our team to learn more about identifying depression, different treatment options and where to find help. The sooner an effective treatment program is found, the sooner you or your loved one can get their life back. If you would like further information, please call the Arizona Depression Helpline at any time to get started on your recovery today.