5 Signs That You Are Dealing With Depression
“People often stigmatize depression and are in denial that they are depressed,” says Susanne Cooperman, Ph.D., a psychologist at NYU Langone. “They are often used to muscling through stressful situations and depressing periods in their lives, and when somebody usually from the outside asks, ‘What’s going on here?’… they are kind of surprised when people tell them they are.”
Depression is multi-faceted and has the ability to sneak up on people. So we talked to Cooperman about some unexpected signs of depression. (Keep in mind that these symptoms would be persisting most of the day, almost every day if you are, in fact, depressed.)
We often associate depression with a loss of general pleasure—and this can be a diminished pleasure in sex, socializing, or something as simple as no longer enjoying your hobbies. This isn’t to say that losing interest in a two-week knitting fad means you’re depressed. “But an example could be that you used to love cooking, and it just doesn’t give you pleasure anymore,” Cooperman says. “It’s very hard when you’re in that place to get out of that depression because usually by engaging in pleasurable activities you feel better, but now there’s no motivation, no interest, and even if you get yourself to do do it, the enjoyment doesn’t kick in, so then it’s a negative loop. It’s kind of a catch-22.”
Has your fuse got a few inches shorter? According to a 2013 study in JAMA Psychiatry, “overt irritability/anger” was a symptom for more than half of people experiencing more severe and longer-term depression. Uncharacteristic agitation is a sign of depression in both adults and children, Cooperman says.
There are also vegetative signs of depression, including a loss of energy or a change in sleep pattern. “People who are depressed either sleep a lot or wake up very early,” Cooperman says. Although the doctor says that having difficulty falling asleep is typically a sign of anxiety, routine early rising at about four or five in the morning with the inability to go back to bed is also a sign of depression.
Have you been more addicted to Facebook and Instagram than usual? According to Cooperman, this uptick in social media scrolling could be one tactic that people with undiagnosed depression use to ignore the root cause of what’s ailing them. “It’s a distractor that also gives you a little bit of a high you get,” she says. “There’s a little adrenaline spurt every time you get a message [or like], which is kind of like self-medicating by increasing the adrenaline that is in your system. This can lead to adrenal fatigue and burnout because you can only do that so long.” People may be creating artificial highs as an attempt to lessen undiagnosed depression by increased drinking or drug use.
According to Cooperman, it’s common for depression to be paired with an increase or loss in appetite. “Some people might be losing weight, which in the beginning they might enjoy,” says Cooperman. “But over time, the loss of appetite will leave you have less energy.” Other people will react by snacking throughout the day, especially on foods that are high in sugar and fat. Says Cooperman, “You snack on potato chips and then you feel bad about yourself; it increases low self-esteem because you put on weight and it’s an endless cycle.”