Depression is often misunderstood. There are a surprisingly high number of people who are struck by major depression in the U.S. each year: nearly 10%. And few diseases are as misunderstood by the general public as depression.
We misuse terms that describe symptoms of depression every day—”Wow, he’s like totally manic,” or “The boss is going bipolar again,” or “It’s understandable you’re depressed…your cat just died.”
These people might be suffering from major depression, but with no further information about their life-events, family history, and other symptoms, terms such as manic or bipolar are simply labels of our modern culture.
It’s important to understand that people who suffer from depression are not “just sad,” “weak,” “need to ‘just get over it,’” or “grief-stricken.”
While grief has been considered to be one of the causes of depression, grief (the act of grieving) is often appropriate and healthy, and is not a sure indicator of depression.
(Further, grief is not just about the impact of the death of a family member or friend. Many people grieve when they lose pets, go through divorce, lose a job, and other life events.)
The various types of depression are very distinct, but they all share a common set of symptoms. Diagnosis oftentimes is dependent upon the number of symptoms present, and how severe they are.
Symptoms of Depression
- Exhaustion/lack of energy
- Low self-image
- Destructive self-criticism
- Feelings of shame and/or guilt
- Manic behavior
- Mood swings
- Excessive sleep
- Suicidal thoughts or acts
- Feelings of “emptiness”
- Pessimism about the future
- Low sex drive
- Mental impairment (difficulty concentrating, loss of memory)
Not ALL depression sufferers experience ALL of the above symptoms but if you experience most you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Some depression sufferers describe the feeling as a complete lack of joy, even lacking the enjoyment they used to get from certain favorite activities. Most often a strong sense of hopelessness and helplessness is also felt.