Updated: Apr 17, 2020
You may be feeling down, in a rut, or like you’re just not yourself anymore. Maybe you’re having trouble sleeping, waking up at night, or the opposite, sleeping too much. You don’t feel interested in your life anymore, and things that you used to enjoy doing just seem like another extra chore. Maybe you even isolate yourself and are pulling back from interacting with others because it’s just too hard anymore. Your appetite has also changed, now you only crave and eat junk food which you know just makes you feel worse, but you can’t seem to stop. Or you’ve lost weight because you forget to eat or you don’t feel like eating anymore. All of these changes in yourself, how you feel and how you go through life, are adding up and making life just so difficult. If this seems like you, you may have depression.
Oftentimes it is difficult to determine what exactly is depression. While depression signs and symptoms show up differently in every person, there are some common signs that may indicate you have depression. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it may give you a starting point to determine if what you’re going through may be depression. This article identifies and discusses the top 5 signs of depression that I see in my counseling practice with adults who come in for therapy.
1) Change in Mood
Perhaps the most significant symptom of depression is a change in your mood. I’m not talking about a daily or hourly change, but a general change in your mood over the past few weeks to months, even going back a year. You may be more irritable than normal, meaning that for most of the day, most days of the week, you’ve felt irritable instead of your normal, happy(ier) self. Or perhaps you’re not more irritable, but you are just sad and can’t seem to shake the despair. There can be a gender difference here in how men and women experience depression mood changes, with more men than women
becoming irritable and more women than men becoming sad, but I’ve seen several examples of women presenting as irritable and men presenting as sad.
You may not even notice the change in mood yourself, but certainly others have and have pointed it out to you. Perhaps a spouse, partner, friend, coworker, or even your boss has said something to you such as “it seems you’re having a hard time lately” or “what is going on with you?”. Looking back, you might even be the last to notice this constant mood change but others have picked up on it sooner. If you’re unsure if your mood has changed over the past few weeks or months, track your mood daily 3x per day for 2 weeks, and see if you notice a trend.
2) Change in Sleep Patterns
A change in sleep patterns may be the easiest sign of depression to identify and measure. For sure you know if you are not getting enough, or getting too much, sleep! If you don’t normally have sleep problems and now it is taking you 1 hour or more to get to sleep at night, or if your sleep is restless with multiple awakenings, or you wake up very early in the morning and cannot go back to sleep, this may indicate depression. You may be getting 6 hours of sleep instead of your normal 8, and predictably you are tired during the day. Being tired theoretically should help you fall asleep at night earlier, but with depression it doesn’t always work that way.
The other change in sleep patterns that you might see with depression is sleeping too much. Perhaps you didn’t realize it but slowly your sleep has been creeping up to 10, 12, maybe even 14 hours per night, and you still can’t get yourself out of bed in the morning because you’re tired. This is a significant symptom of depression and can be identified as such. There are many other mental health issues related to changes in sleep, so just because you have this one sign of depression it doesn’t mean that you have depression. For example, difficulty sleeping is a common symptom of anxiety as well, and anxiety and depression are often co-occurring.
3) Lack of Motivation
Another top sign of depression that I see often is a lack of motivation. This can be especially difficult for those that are highly motivated and are wondering what happened and why they aren’t motivated anymore. However, a lack of motivation can also be difficult to assess. One way to determine if you’ve lost your motivation is to look back over the past few weeks to month. Are there things that normally you would have gotten done with little thought or effort, that now seem too big to handle? Perhaps you
know what you want/have to do to get back on track, but you’re having difficulty working up the energy or motivation to do these things. Lack of motivation is particularly difficult because getting yourself out of depression often requires some active work on your part, and doing this is difficult with no motivation.
4) Loss of Interest
Losing interest or pleasure in activities, tasks or hobbies that you formerly found enjoyable is a top sign of depression. I often ask new clients at their intake appointment, what things do you enjoy doing? And based on their answer to this one question, I can almost always determine if there’s some depression going on. If you cannot answer this question, or can only come up with 1 or 2 things that you enjoy, it is likely that you may be experiencing depression. Depression causes us to not enjoy things we used to
enjoy, and that may even include being around loved ones. How terrible is it to feel like you don’t want to be around your partner, your parents, even your children, whom you love so much? That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person at all, it’s just a common symptom of depression.
5) Sense of Hopelessness
Losing your sense of hope is perhaps the most heartbreaking of depression symptoms. Most of the time, we live our lives full of hope for the future. We look forward to doing things, to being ourselves, and to living our life with people that we love. Depression can and does affect our sense of hope for the future. When you start to feel hopeless most of the day, most of the week, and even most of the month, it becomes very difficult to continue to do your everyday tasks and be your everyday self.
If and when you develop a constant sense of hopelessness, you may even feel that life is not worth it to go on. You might feel like the world, and everyone in it, is better off without you here. You may passively or even actively be contemplating suicide. Passive thoughts of suicide include wishing you weren’t here anymore, but not wanting to do anything about it. Active suicidal ideation is when you are thinking about doing something to end your life. Thoughts of suicide are to be taken seriously. If you or someone you love is having thoughts of suicide, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This is staffed 24 hours/day by professionals who can help you. You can also go to your local emergency department if your need is urgent or emergent.
Treatment for Depression at Catalyss Counseling
You may be feeling a sense of relief after reading this article and now knowing the Top 5 Signs of Depression, or you may be feeling even worse. Maybe you are thinking that you have depression, but now what do you do? The good news is, depression is very treatable. You don’t have to feel like this forever, you can get back to who you were in the past, and you can feel better again. It won’t happen overnight, but you will get better. The first step is getting professional help for depression treatment.
Therapy and counseling are very effective for depression, or you can contact your primary care physician for a discussion about medications that can help with depression.
If you are interested in how the therapists at Catalyss Counseling can help you treat and rise above your depression, you can contact us for a free 20-minute phone consultation or schedule an appointment online with one of our experienced therapists.
Shannon Heers is a psychotherapist and owner of Catalyss Counseling in Englewood, CO. Shannon helps adults in professional careers manage anxiety, depression, work-life balance, grief and loss, and addictions. Follow Catalyss Counseling on Facebook or LinkedIn.