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Published on June 01, 2017

Are You Depressed? 5 Warning Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore

Everyone feels sad and down once in a while. It’s a normal reaction to the more challenging aspects of life, such as the death of a loved one, losing your job, or breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend. However, depression – which doctors will refer to as clinical depression or major depressive disorder – is different. The symptoms are intense and occur almost every day for longer than two weeks. Many people with depression experience it for months and sometimes even years.

“The feelings associated with depression and the physical symptoms that accompany them can be overwhelming for the individual,” said Nancy DeAngelis, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner who serves as director of Behavioral Health Services at Abington Hospital. “They can make it difficult to get the necessary treatment, and therefore family members and loved ones may need to help.”

What Causes Depression?

There’s no one cause of depression that is common to all people who experience it. However, there are several factors that may make you more likely to have depression:

  • The brain: People with depression have physical changes and differences in the brain compared with non-depressed people. They have fewer receptors for the “feel good” chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters.
  • Brain chemistry: In addition to having fewer receptors, some people with depression may also have lower concentrations of neurotransmitters that help to regulate their mood.
  • Hormone changes: Hormones play a big part in depression as well. Pregnancy and the time after giving birth disrupt hormone levels, as do conditions such as thyroid disease and menopause.
  • Genes: Depression seems to run in families, which means there may be a genetic influence at work as well.

The Telltale Signs of Depression

“While the causes of depression vary, many patients experience similar symptoms,” said DeAngelis. “If you experience these symptoms for an extended period of time, you should be evaluated by your physician.”

Sign No. 1: You’re Feeling Down

As the name implies, depression will make you feel down. Many sufferers report feeling sad, empty and hopeless. They may also feel irritable and frustrated about small things, or overly anxious and restless.

Sign No. 2: Thinking is Difficult and Troublesome

People with depression frequently have problems concentrating and making simple decisions. They may obsess about small failures and blame themselves for things that are beyond their control. In the worst cases, they may have frequent thoughts about death and suicide.

“If you think about suicide frequently or how the world would be better off without you, this is a clear sign of depression that needs to be addressed immediately,” said DeAngelis.

Sign No. 3: Your Daily Activities Are Hard to Keep Up

When someone has depression, the things in life that they used to enjoy lose their appeal. They may give up on hobbies or other passions and not take pleasure in being with family and friends. Normal everyday tasks like taking care of hygiene and going to work become difficult or impossible.

Sign No. 4: Your Sleep Pattern Has Changed

The imbalance of brain chemicals that can cause depression also causes changes in sleep among sufferers. They may have difficulty sleeping or, conversely, sleep more than usual and always feel tired.

Sign No. 5: You’re Experiencing Physical Symptoms

In addition to sleep disturbances, depression sufferers also frequently have other physical symptoms such as back pain, headaches, digestive problems and diarrhea.

“If you’re experiencing any of these signs of depression, seek treatment soon,” said DeAngelis. “A combination of counseling and medication can help you manage your illness.”

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