The primary symptoms of depression are a sad mood and/or loss of interest in life. Activities that were once pleasurable lose their appeal. Patients may also be haunted by a sense of guilt or worthlessness, lack of hope, and recurring thoughts of death or suicide. Depression is sometimes linked to physical symptoms. These include:
Fatigue and decreased energy
Insomnia, especially early-morning waking
Eating, moving, or talking noticeably slower
Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
Significant weight loss or weight gain
Without treatment, the physical and emotional turmoil brought on by depression can cause problems in living, such as relationship turmoil, career performance. People with depression often find it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. They turn away from previously enjoyable activities, including sex. In severe cases, depression can become life-threatening due either to a depressed person's inability to care for themselves or an active sense of wanting to die and becoming suicidal. People who are depressed are more likely to attempt suicide. Warning signs include talking about death or suicide, threatening to hurt people, or engaging in aggressive or risky behavior.
Researchers aren't sure what causes depression. Certainly, many of us experience occasional sadness and anyone can become depressed, but many experts believe genetics play a role. Having a parent or sibling with depression increases your risk of developing the disorder. Women are twice as likely as men to become depressed. One prominent theory of depression is altered brain structure and chemical function. Brain circuits that regulate mood may work less efficiently during depression. Drugs that treat depression are believed to improve communication between nerve cells, making them fire more normally. The Biosocial model seems to have the most relevance, which is the theory that a person who is struggling with depression is biologically (genetically) pre-dispositioned to develop depression. This may simply mean a person carries more genetic markers that correlate with depression than other individuals and with exposure to one significant stressor or chronic stressors in the environment (without the right number of protective factors to shield the person from deepening depression), a clinical depression can develop.
There are different types of depression including:
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
The above symptoms of depression should be separated out from a chronic low-level depression or 'moody blues' lasting for a year or more (Dysthymia) and Uncomplicated Bereavement stemming from the death of a loved one. In order to make a diagnosis as your therapist, Melissa Wheelock, LMFT will ask about your medical history and current symptoms to determine if you meet the criteria for a specific diagnosis. But you know your body best and if you are just not feeling yourself, struggling with negative thoughts or increased sadness and you have ruled out any medical diagnosis, it is important to recognize the early signs of depression. Reaching out for help from supportive people and considering therapy as a method for addressing these feelings is the right way to go. Do not try to go it alone!