Depression is one of the most common mental issues, and co-occurs with many other illnesses like anxiety, bipolar disorder and substance abuse. But despite its frequency, it can still be hard to tell if you’re dealing with “real” depression, or just having a bad day. So let’s explore some of the symptoms I most commonly see. If these sound real familiar, you might be depressed.
1. You Feel Tired All the Time
Think of your energy level as a battery that can charge up and run low. Most people start their day with 100% of their battery full, maybe a little less if they slept badly or feel stressed. Depression causes you to wake up with just 50%, 30% or even less of your battery, and you have to make that small amount last all day.
This battery can apply to mental or physical energy. You might have a desk job, but depression can still leave you feeling exhausted after sorting through emails or writing a paper. Simple conversations might wear you down. Or you might find it difficult to cook, brush your teeth or do other physical tasks that seem to be easy for most people.
If you’re sick, it can be hard to distinguish depression-tiredness from regular tiredness. Chronic illness can make ordinary tasks exhausting. But if the following points apply to you, too, you might be depressed.
2. You Don’t Enjoy the Things You Used To
Most people think of depression as “sadness but longer.” And for many depressed people, they do feel sad. But if they don’t feel constantly sad, they might think their depression doesn’t “count,” so you should also look at the absence of good days, too.
Depression casts a dull cloud over things that should be relaxing, fun and uplifting for you. Friends whose company you normally enjoy, might feel overwhelming, loud, or boring when you’re depressed. Hobbies that should make you smile become pointless and dull. If you’re prone to anxiety, you’ll likely feel anxious more often, too.
3. You Feel Guilty, Worthless or Hopeless
Most of my clients with depression think badly of themselves. They may ask me if they’re terrible people, apologize when they’ve done nothing wrong, or call themselves “stupid.” Or they might feel like they don’t have the ability to get better. If it’s hard for you to think of good qualities about yourself or believe people like you, you might be depressed.
Depression lies to you. It shows you all the negatives while hiding the positives. That includes only seeing the negatives about yourself. Even if you don’t have depression, this mental bias lowers your self-esteem and can make you vulnerable to being mistreated by other people.
4. You Want to Get Away From It All
With a low battery, low mood and little belief in yourself, you’ll probably start feeling overwhelmed. Depressed people feel stressed out more easily and often want to withdraw from people and responsibilities. You may feel like you want to “take it easy,” or wish you could have more time to yourself to recharge. In extreme cases, you might even think of ending your life just to get away from all the stress and exhaustion you’re under.
This is a natural response when you have so little energy, but it’s also a trap. The more you withdraw, the harder it is to get back into these habits, and the more likely you are to feel helpless and stuck.
If You Think You Might Be Depressed, Ask For Help
It’s impossible to diagnose yourself for sure based off an internet article. Even as a therapist, I can’t diagnose someone who’s not a client. But even if it’s not “official” depression, you still deserve support. It’s much easier to treat depression if you catch it early than wait for it to get severe.
Reach out to friends and family you trust, or look for a support group. Often, just talking about your problems can help you work out how to solve them, and help you feel less alone. It’s also a good idea to check with your physician for illnesses or nutritional deficiencies. Sometimes depression has a physical cause that you can treat. If you’re thinking of ending your life, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, or find your local warmline if you just need someone to talk to.
If you need a formal diagnosis, more focused support, or are worried about “burdening” others, consider getting a therapist. Most of my clients have experienced depression at some point, and I’m happy to report that it’s almost always treatable. In my next post I’ll go over some of the strategies I use for it with clients. See you then!