Signs of depression aren’t always obvious. Many of us who live with depression are able to mask it from the world: we can seem “normal” from the outside even though inwardly we’re struggling to cope. Sometimes, we might not even realise we’re depressed.
Depression manifests itself differently with different people, and there are many different signs and symptoms that can indicate we’re unwell. Some of these can be incredibly subtle – but are very common among those of us who live with depression.
1. We Are Always Busy
We never stop. We’re always on the go. When we’re not at work, we’re at the gym, we’re volunteering, we’re going out with our friends. If we ever sit down to watch TV, we’re always doing at least six other things at the same time. We never stop and regroup. We don’t allow our heads to settle. Our phones rarely leave our hands. We never know how we’re really feeling. We stay so busy that we never have to think about anything.
2. We Are Low On Energy
However much we sleep, however hard we try, we always seem to have less energy than those around us. We’re constantly drained. Our muscles ache continually. It seems we get half us much done in a day as the others around us, yet they keep going and we’re absolutely exhausted.
3. We Are Perfectionists
We’re our own biggest critics. We are perfectionists. If something we do falls short of our own impossible standards, we beat ourselves up about it. We are constantly terrified of failing. We are always worried about falling behind. From the outside, we can look like super-successful over-achievers. But inside we feel like we’re constantly falling short and letting everyone down. There might be times when we suddenly quit something for no apparent reason. We prefer to stop doing something altogether than to risk failing it, or doing it to a less-than-perfect standard.
4. We Can Be Irritable
Little things which shouldn’t annoy us do. Sometimes we become irrationally angry at something pretty small. It can feel like we have a layer of tolerance removed, and things which shouldn’t set us off, do. We can’t quite work out why a particular sound makes us want to scream. We don’t know why certain things our family members do make us snap. They just do.
5. We Cry Over Seemingly Simple Tasks
We can deliver a speech to 100 people at work, but get home and cry because we can’t match up all the socks in our washing pile. Doing anything at all can feel like a monumental challenge. We wake up on a morning, and everything feels impossible. We carry on anyway. We’re experts on putting on a front for other people, but cry over bizarre things when we’re on our own.
6. We Don’t Feel Happy
We think we should be happy. Though we laugh along with a funny TV show, we feel empty inside. Good things happen and we smile and celebrate with our friends and family, but we don’t feel anything. We don’t understand why we don’t feel happy. We can’t put our finger on it. But something isn’t quite right. Everyone else seems to genuinely be enjoying themselves – they look light and happy and free. But we feel stuck, empty and lost.
7. We Doubt Ourselves
We constantly worry and doubt everything that we do. It can stretch from the conversation we had with the bus driver than morning (did we thank them enough? Were we fast enough sorting out our change? Did we annoy the others in the queue?), to a huge life decision (should we have offered so much money on that house? Should we have looked elsewhere? Is it the ‘right’ house for us?). We spend our lives worrying about whether we are good enough, whether we did things ‘right’ and whether people like us. We doubt every decision that we make. It’s exhausting.
8. We Feel Guilty
We feel guilty about everything. Guilt for not putting in an extra hour at work, guilt for having nice friends, guilt for practising self-care. We feel like we don’t deserve anything good. We’re ashamed of our existence. The guilt surrounds pretty much everything and it eats us up.
9. We Have Problems With Sleep
Sleep is a struggle for us: we find ourselves sleeping too much, or not enough, or waking in the night. We don’t know why our sleep is so disrupted. We’ve followed all the advice: our bedrooms are sleep sanctuaries, we’ve tried lavender sprays and sleepy teas, we trawl the internet every day for a snippet of sleep advice we might have missed. But despite all of that, we still struggle with our sleep.
10. We Turn To Negative Coping Mechanisms
Some of us might turn to alcohol to cope with how we’re feeling. Others might turn to food. Some will turn to cigarettes, or gambling, or sex. We will turn to anything that dampens our feelings for a little while, or provides us with an escape. Sometimes we don’t even link our feelings with our actions. Having a drink after work, buying a scratch-card, or fixing a bad day with a giant bar of chocolate, are pretty normal things that lots of people do. We often find ourselves doing them a little too much, though. Instead of dealing with our feelings, we resort to using negative coping tools.
If we think we may be living with depression, it’s important we seek help. Talking to our GP is a good first step: they will have lots of experience of helping people with depression, and there are a range of different treatment options available to us. Reaching out isn’t always easy, but doing so can transform our lives. We don’t need to struggle alone.
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