It’s not just you.
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses and can manifest in everything from seasonal affective disorder to postpartum depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). If you’re noticing abnormal behavioral or any of these physical symptoms, you may be considered clinically depressed. The good news is most depression is treatable. If you catch any of these warning signs, seeking professional treatment may help.
Loss of interest
“Anhedonia” is the medical term for losing interest in activities or hobbies you used to enjoy. As Faith Brynie, Ph.D. writes in her book “Brain Sense,” depression may cause anhedonia. Many people who suffer from depression report a diminished sex drive and disinterest in their favorite foods.
Maurizio Fava, M.D. wrote that fatigue related to depression is more than just morning grogginess in the journal Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience:
“Fatigue is one of the identified symptoms of [major depressive disorder, or MDD] … where it is defined as physical fatigue or loss of energy. However, in my opinion, fatigue is much more than that. We see apathy and considerable emotional disturbance occurring as a consequence of fatigue. We have also seen high rates of diminished focus, word finding difficulties, and recall problems in fatigued patients with MDD.”
Fava described three distinct categories of fatigue in depression patients: physical (low energy, weakness and sluggishness), cognitive (decreased concentration, slower thinking) and emotional (apathy, boredom and lack of motivation).
According to Ivan Goldberg, M.D. for the website PSYCOM, if you are experiencing depression you might also have an irregular sleep pattern.
Changes in appetite
Depressed patients may lack the appetite they used to have before they felt symptoms of depression, according to Chris Iliades, M.D. Instead of a specific brain process, a loss of appetite might be caused by a combination of two other symptoms: loss of interest (in food) and fatigue (or feeling too weak or unmotivated to eat healthily).
Depression might affect your appetite in the opposite way. The feelings of despair or anxiety may cause depressed people to seek emotional eating, or finding comfort in food. Some even engage in binge eating, which is seemingly uncontrolled consumption of a large amount of food in a relatively short amount of time.
“To ‘escape’ from awareness of [negative] thoughts and feelings, attention and cognition is focused instead on immediate, concrete stimuli, such as food,” says Jennifer Pells, Ph.D., who works with the weight management treatment center Structure Health.
These may be the most obvious, but experts identify clinical depression by a number of negative thoughts. These include sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness or emptiness, according to the American Psychiatric Association. While everyone experiences these thoughts at some point in their lives, these feelings might be a symptom of depression if they are persistent, all-encompassing or long-lasting.
Dangerous thoughts of self-harm or suicide are also indicative of depression. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.