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Your boss chews you out. A car hits a puddle and splashes dirty water all over you. It’s a bad day, but it’s only one day. But depression, which affects one in 10 Americans, doesn’t go away with a flip of the calendar. Its symptoms usually persist for two weeks or more and typically do not subside without treatment. Unfortunately, most people do not realize that depression’s symptoms aren’t as simple as “feeling sad.” What’s more, every person experiences depression differently, and some may experience more symptoms than others. That means that far too often depression goes unrecognized, and those affected by it are forced to suffer in silence. Read on to learn how to recognize the most common symptoms of depression — whether in yourself, friends or family members — and how to get help.
1. Self-Criticism “We all have an inner critic. For people who are depressed, this critical inner voice can have a powerful and destructive influence on their state of mind. It may be feeding them a distorted commentary on their lives,” says Jaime W. Vinick, M.C., LPC, NCC, chief clinical officer at Sierra Tucson psychiatric facility. What’s more, self-criticism may also predict depression. In a 2009 Comprehensive Psychiatry study of 107 adults, those who were most self-critical were also more likely to be depressed four years later. Pay attention to how often you or anyone else uses the word “should,” says Moe Gelbart, Ph.D., a psychologist at Torrance Memorial Medical Center in California. Frequently referencing your behavior by saying you “should” have done something else is a common sign of self-judgment. Learn how to combat that self-criticism with positive self-talk.
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2. Loss of Interest Losing interest in three-hour meetings and work deadlines is one thing, but with depression, people can lose interest in things they typically enjoy, such as movies, sports and time spent with friends, says psychologist Moe Gelbart, Ph.D. “Loss of interest in pleasurable activities is a common component of depression and is referred to as anhedonia.” This loss of interest may be due to changes in the brain’s levels of reward-regulating hormones and neurotransmitters, according to psychiatrist Robert London, M.D. Unfortunately, a loss of interest can exacerbate feelings of isolation, leading to further depression, Gelbart says. It’s a self-destructive cycle that can be difficult for people suffering with depression to break.
3. Significant Weight Changes Depression can do a number on a scale. When depressed, many people lose interest in eating because they no longer enjoy food. On the other hand, they may emotionally eat in a conscious or unconscious attempt to improve their mood. In fact, according to a 2003 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating foods rich in carbohydrates can temporarily promote the synthesis of the feel-good chemical serotonin in the brain. What’s more, depression-induced inactivity can also contribute to weight gain. If a person experiences a change in body weight of more than five percent in a month, medical attention is necessary, says Robert London, M.D.
4. Unexplained Aches and Pains Often, when depressed individuals do seek medical attention, their complaint isn’t depression at all. It’s aches and pains, such as stomach troubles and joint and back pain, says counselor Jaime W. Vinick. She explains that the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine influence not only mood, but also biological and neurological processes that can result in pain. What’s more, depression can affect how pain is perceived in the brain. “Pain signals from the body that are normally blunted or diverted can instead be amplified,” says psychologist Nick Forand, Ph.D. “People who are depressed also tend to have a lot of negative self-focused attention, so they might be more likely to notice pain sensations and concentrate on them, which can make the perception of pain worse,” he says.
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5. Anger and Irritability Often, when depressed, people report feeling agitated, restless or even violent, explains psychiatrist Robert London, M.D., who developed the short-term psychotherapy unit at the NYU Langone Medical Center. But anger is not only a symptom of depression, it’s also a possible contributor to depression. According to one Advances in Psychiatric Treatment editorial, when anger is left unaddressed it can lead to passive-aggressive behavior, which can be self-destructive and contribute to feelings of depression. London recommends that anyone experiencing aggression, hostility or just a “short fuse” discuss conflicts with others to work toward a possible resolution. Talking with a counselor or therapist can also prove helpful in sorting through feelings of anger or resentment and coming up with constructive ways of dealing with them.
The original article “8 Warning Signs of Depression You Shouldn’t Ignore" appeared on LIVESTRONG.COM.
By K. Aleisha Fetters
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