If you’ve felt really down for a while, you might start to wonder if you’re suffering from depression. Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a Boulder, Colorado-based marriage counselor in private practice, told The Cheat Sheet that different types of depression often boil down to the level of your ability to function as well as the severity and duration of the depression.
“Clinical depression is technically called major depressive disorder and is characterized by severe feelings of hopelessness, depression, and/or anger, and often includes suicidal ideation and severe impairment in at least two areas of life,” said Fisher.
How do you know if you have clinical depression? Here are six signs and symptoms.
You’re losing your will to live
Has life lost its meaning? Those with major depression might feel a sense of hopelessness, low self-worth, and even begin to lose their appetite.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker Rachel Dubrow told The Cheat Sheet that this type of depression often presents with several signs and symptoms. “A person is clinically depressed when the lack of interest and/or depressed mood is present along with other symptoms, such as insomnia, gaining or losing weight without trying to do so, irritability, feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and/or worthlessness, having difficulty concentrating, and feeling suicidal. A person can have varying levels of depression, which range in severity from mild to moderate to severe,” said Dubrow.
Hygiene isn’t a priority
One of the signs you’re deeply depressed is that you stop taking care of yourself. You might stop taking showers, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, or combing your hair.
One young woman suffering from major depression received media attention after her hair stylist posted a message on Facebook about how the troubled teen was so depressed that she couldn’t even brush her hair. She came to the hair stylist for help because she had to take school pictures. The stylist said the girl told her she couldn’t muster the energy to brush her hair because she felt worthless. The girl was so desperate for help that she even asked the hair stylist to shave off all her hair.
You’ve lost interest in activities you used to enjoy
Do you still enjoy the same activities? From time to time, other things might compete for your attention, and you might have to put a hobby aside temporarily. It’s not unusual to take a break from a hobby or interest if you’re ill, injured, or just too busy to participate in the activity. However, if you just aren’t interested in activities that used to bring you great joy, and you don’t foresee returning to those activities or hobbies anytime soon, this could also signal something isn’t quite right.
You have trouble getting out of bed
When you are in a deep depression, mornings can be extremely difficult to handle. You might even sleep all day and struggle to get up and get out of the house due to a lack of energy and motivation. The world becomes a threatening place to you, and you might start to feel like things are safer if you just stay in bed.
“You might feel like you have to ‘wind yourself up’ in the mornings just to get up and out of bed,” said Dubrow. On the other hand, some people experience insomnia, and have trouble sleeping.
You don’t want to socialize
One of the most common signs of major depressive disorder is social withdrawal. As you sink deeper into the depression, you might shy away from people you used to regularly spend time with and turn down social invitations. You might not feel like being around friends and family. However, social isolation usually tends to make you feel worse if you’re already depressed. This behavior will likely feed into the distorted belief you may already have of being alone and that no one cares.
You’ve had symptoms for two or more weeks
It’s normal to feel down every now and then. However, it’s a warning sign if you are still sad after about two weeks. Therapist Kimberly Hershenson said sadness shouldn’t go on indefinitely.
“Everyone gets sad given all the ups and downs of life. It is a problem when your sadness doesn’t go away, and begins to affect your health and relationships. Being sad for extensive periods of time could mean something else is going on with your mental health such as clinical depression,” said Hershenson.
When to see a mental health professional
You know you definitely don’t feel like yourself anymore, but when is it time to seek professional help? Dr. Laurel Steinberg, a psychotherapist and adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, said it’s time to get help when you’ve reached a point where you just can’t seem to dig yourself out of your slump. Generally, once you reach the two-week mark, it’s time to seek assistance.
“It’s time to see a mental health professional when symptoms persist and you aren’t able to pull yourself out of a period of very negative, dark thinking in a timely fashion, causing your relationships and work to be threatened or to potentially be threatened in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Steinberg.
Get immediate help and go to an emergency room if you feel that you might harm yourself. If you’re in distress and need to speak to someone, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
[Editor’s note: This story was originally published August 25, 2017.]
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