Do I Have Depression? When Should You Talk To Someone About Your Mental Health?
We’ve all had bad days, but when should you start to consider speaking with a mental health professional about Depression?
What is Depression and How is it Different from Being Sad?
Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a mental health disorder that can have negative effects on many areas of one’s life. Some of the main symptoms of depression include an overwhelming feeling of sadness and/or loss of interest in normal activities. It can be accompanied by a change in appetite, irregular sleeping patterns, feelings of isolation or loss of purpose, and a difficulty concentrating or making decisions. In extreme cases, depression can even lead to thoughts of death or suicide if left untreated (Source).
While many people believe that depression is simply an extreme example of sadness, this is not entirely accurate. Whereas feelings of sadness can be similar to certain symptoms of depression, there are some major factors used to differentiate sadness, which is normally short lived and has a specific cause such as the loss of a loved one or a job, depression is typically caused by an imbalance in the chemistry of the brain, and symptoms must last for a minimum of two weeks to meet the clinical criteria for a diagnosis.
Early Signs of Depression.
As with any mental health issue, no two people experience depression in the same way; however, there are common signs and symptoms to watch out for if you suspect that you or someone you love is suffering from a mood disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, an individual with depression may experience some or all of the following:
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies, or sports
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or
- Increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures, or self-blame
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
It is important to understand that even though each of these symptoms on their own does not necessarily mean an individual is suffering from depression, experiencing multiple symptoms, or symptoms strong enough to affect an individual’s daily activities, should be seen as a major red flag.
When Should You Talk to Someone About Depression?
Since Depression at it’s most severe can lead to self-harm and even suicide, and the symptoms of the mental health disorder can make an individual reluctant to, or incapable of seeking help as they become more severe, it is very important that you try and speak with a mental health professional as soon as you notice any of the warning signs.
If you are experiencing severe symptoms of depression or are having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Other support options are available as well, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US (1-800-273-8255).
Talking to a Mental Health Professional about Depression.
It can be difficult to open up to someone about feelings of depression, even to a psychiatrist; we often feel that there is a lot of negative stigma associated with mental health issues. It is important to remember that seeking help for a mental illness such as depression is no different that seeking medical attention for a broken bone. It does not mean you are weak. It means simply that there is a medical issue you need to resolve.
When you speak to your doctor about your symptoms, it is important to be open and honest about what you are experiencing as this will help your doctor to identify the correct diagnosis and treatment options.
After receiving his undergraduate degree in psychology, Scott went on to work as a teacher and educational counselor while working towards his master’s degree. He has spent several years working with children and adults and has personal experience with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Dyslexia, and Depression.