All of us from time to time can feel low or fed up or even sad for no particular reason. That’s normal and we usually pull out of it in a few hours or, at worse, in a day or so. What distinguishes the illness that we call depression from these fleeting mood swings is that with depression the feelings and mood are fixed and locked in, they are unrelenting, last all day and every day and can be overwhelming. They take you over.
Symptoms of Depression
Here are some of the salient features of this horrible condition:
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
- Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure. Everything is flat and without meaning.
- Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month. Eating too much or too little.
- Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning when you may be at your worst, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia) not wanting to get out of bed and face the day.
- Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
- Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
- Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
- Reckless behaviour. You engage in escapist behaviour such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
- Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
- Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
- A feeling that life is no longer worth living. If this applies to you then please seek immediate help and talk to some trusted friend or to a healthcare professional.