Advances in the study of the brain have led to a greater understanding of depression. It’s not just a bad day, but a host of symptoms caused by chemical imbalances that can more deeply root the neural pathways of the brain in a cycle of depression.
Studies have shown the depressed brain can atrophy and change over time if not treated. However, recognizing when depression has set in is one of the trickier parts to overcome because the symptoms go beyond sadness.
Mental health care professionals advise patients to seek help if they experience certain symptoms for two weeks or longer. The following are common indicators of depression to look for:
— Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness: not looking for ways to solve problems and believing nothing will change; bleak outlook
— Loss of interest in daily activities: no longer enjoy the activities and hobbies you once did? Lack of interest in these pastimes, sex or social activities is a red flag
— Appetite or weight changes: seeing the scale go up or down by more than 5% of body weight in a month
— Sleep changes: hypersomnia (oversleeping) and insomnia (especially waking early in the morning) are signs that all is not well
— Anger or irritability: forget sadness; feelings of irritability, agitation, restlessness are symptoms you and others will notice; anything and everything can pique your short temper
— Loss of energy: slogging through the day? Fatigue, feeling sluggish and physically drained make it difficult to get through the day. Some patients report their whole body feeling heavy and their energy reserves wiped with even small tasks
— Self-loathing: taking self-critique to a new level with strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt is reason to seek help
— Reckless behavior: excessive drinking, substance abuse, compulsive gambling, extreme sports, and reckless driving are a few of the escapist activities seen in individuals trying to cope or self-medicate depression.
— Concentration problems: lack of focus, gaps in memory, and troubles focusing and making decisions indicate a depressed brain
— Unexplained aches and pains: like the ad says, “depression hurts”; the physical pain associated with depression can be manifested in back pain, headaches, aching muscles and stomach pain.
Much as the manifestation and symptoms of depression vary from person to person (often by gender), the treatment options are varied. Lifestyle changes like improved eating habits and exercise as well as meditation are important parts of any recovery plan.
Medication and counseling are also amazing tools to hoist one’s self out of depression.
Taking a comprehensive approach to treatment is the most effective way to combat mental illness. By keeping tabs on daily mood, sleep patterns, and the potential symptoms listed above, the cycle of depression can be nipped in its early stages and make more days happy and bright.