It seems like it should be easy to answer the question, “Are you depressed?” But the reality is depression looks different from one person to the next.
Not all depression looks the same
For some people, depression includes the traditional symptoms of sadness, tearfulness, low energy, and hopelessness. For others, the primary symptom is “not caring” or a loss of interest in things they used to enjoy. Still others describe their mood as irritable.
Some people sleep for long periods or have trouble getting out of bed; others lie awake at night, wishing sleep would come. Some people are hit by a big change in appetite and/or weight, while others experience few physical symptoms.
Some people are no longer able to manage their work and family responsibilities, while others keep up with their obligations despite not feeling like themselves.
Still others have such significant anxiety that they don’t realize they are also depressed.
Other important points to consider
If you are trying to determine whether the term “depression” applies to you, keep in mind a few other important points:
- The symptoms of depression exist on a continuum. If your low mood is a -3 or a -4, rather than a -10, your mood is still reducing your enjoyment of life. Similarly, some people don’t meet diagnostic criteria for “major depression,” but their milder depression symptoms still decrease their life satisfaction.
- Sometimes the symptoms of depression settle in gradually over time, and people fail to notice how much worse they are feeling compared to a point in their lives when they were feeling better.
- It’s important to get help before your symptoms become severe. As you’ve probably noticed, depression can make it harder to take action. Don’t wait for the depression to worsen before you seek help.
Finally, if you are feeling hopeless, know that hopelessness is a symptom of depression. Feeling hopeless does not mean your situation is actually hopeless; it means you are depressed. The feeling of hopelessness will go away as your depression lifts; and, you will start to see options and alternatives that didn’t seem possible while you were depressed.
Don’t trust the feeling of hopelessness, as it is a product of the depression and not a good predictor of your future. Seek help from a professional. If you don’t feel able to do that, talk to a friend, family member, clergy, or anyone else who will listen.
Most of all know that you are not alone and that there people who can help.
I hope you will reach out and give therapy a try. I am confident that together we can get you to a point where you are feeling better.