It’s normal to have periods of sadness after a tragic event or stressful situation. But if the feeling doesn’t lift after a few weeks, you might be experiencing the subtle signs of depression.
One of the hardest parts about depression is that symptoms aren’t always obvious. In fact, some early indicators may pass as normal reactions to problems in life. And, although it’s normal to have periods of sadness after a tragic event or stressful situation, if a gloomy feeling doesn’t seem to be lifting after a few weeks, you might be experiencing the subtle signs of depression.
The best way to figure out what’s going on is to track how you’re feeling, whether you think you’re going through a depressive period or not. “It shouldn’t be used for self-diagnosis, but a mood diary could help track your feelings, whether they’re up and down or fairly constant,” Rachel McCrickard, LFMT and CEO of Motivo, tells Woman’s Day. “They can help you track if a mood is persisting. And if something lasts longer than two to three weeks, you might want to schedule an appointment with a doctor or therapist.”
But what differences in your mood should you be looking for? Ahead, McCrickard lays out five subtle signs of depression that might surprise you.
1. FEELINGS OF HOPELESSNESS OR HELPLESSNESS
McCrickard says these types of feelings are typical in reaction to traumatic life events — like a death or a pandemic. “That’s called adjustment disorder,” she says. “It’s when you’re having difficulty adjusting to a specific stressor in your life.” With adjustment disorder, feelings of hopelessness tend to fade once the stressor is gone.
“Depression isn’t dependent on circumstance, but there’s just a feeling of lowness,” McCrickard says. Instead of thinking “things will get better once this difficult time is over,” the feeling is that things will never ever get better. “That’s why depression and suicide are so closely linked,” she says. “If there’s no hope for things to get better, people can develop suicidal thoughts.” So if these feelings are lingering, it might be time to call a doctor.
2. GENERAL SADNESS
Whether you’re swinging from joyful to sobbing or just feeling down most of the day, regular bouts of sadness and crying are a big sign of depression. “It can be mood swings or general malaise,” McCrickard says. “There are different levels.” And because everyone prevents sadness differently, this can be tough to pin down. Some folks may not be able to get out of bed, while others may be behaving completely normally in public, but breaking down in private. It can also manifest as a loss of interest in activities and canceling plans.
Like feelings of hopelessness, anxiety can crop up due to specific circumstances. But if you find yourself worrying for no reason, it could be a sign of depression. “It’s anxiety over things that are not happening right now, but that might happen,” McCrickard says. So if you’re generally worried about your child falling, or nervous about a loved one suffering some kind of accident, even though there is no evidence those things might happen, it might be a subtle signal that something else is going on. That anxiety can affect your sleep, too, in different ways. In order to avoid the anxiety, you might feel the urge to sleep all day. But if your anxiety tends to peak at night, you could be kept awake with overthinking.
4. EATING TOO MUCH… OR TOO LITTLE
Either end of the spectrum can be a sign of depression, according to McCrickard. “Overeating is a form of self-medication because food can be comforting,” she says. That’s why you might see weight gain in someone dealing with depression. On the other hand, McCrickard notes that depression can also cause a lack of appetite, so you might see people lose weight, too. “Even if they wanted to eat, they can’t,” McCrickard says.
5. HEADACHES AND STOMACHACHES
Yes, depression can cause physical symptoms as well as emotional ones. “People have a hard time viewing the mind the way they view the rest of their body,” McCrickard says. “Pain is physical everywhere else in the body. It’s the same for your mind, too.” The pain can also be a secondary symptom to the other signs you’re having. “A lack of sleep can cause headaches,” McCrickard says. “Or if you’re not feeling well, you might not be eating properly, so you may experience stomachaches.”
BY MARIA DEL RUSSO
Apr 15, 2020 Womens Day