Despite the common misperception that happiness is a state of mind, it’s perfectly normal to experience a bad mood, or feel stressed — that’s part of everyday life. The reality of most people’s lives is that we can experience stressful times: working long hours, debt, and family and relational difficulties that can take their toll on our mood and well-being. However, if you find that you’re experiencing a low mood for a prolonged period of time, you could be suffering with depression. There are some key signs of depression to watch out for.
Facts about depression
Depression is more prevalent than you might think. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a major depressive episode is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. 17.3 million adults — 7.1 percent of all adults — have experienced at least one episode. 64 percent of those suffering with depression also experienced severe impairment, which can limit one’s ability to carry out life activities.
Adult females experience a higher rate of depression (8.7 percent) compared to males (5.3 percent). It is most common in the age group 18 to 25. And the prevalence of major depression was highest among those who reported that they were of two or more races.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2.3 million adolescents in the US aged 12 to 17 have experienced a major depressive episode causing impairment.
Key Signs of Depression
There are some key differences between experiencing a low mood and depression. Here are some key signs* of depression to look out for:
- Duration: If you have felt depressed for two weeks or longer, that is more likely to be a depressive episode.
- Changes in sleeping patterns: People who have depression often experience difficulty getting to sleep, or they feel like they can’t get enough sleep — they take naps and do not want to get out of bed in the morning.
- Energy levels: Depression can affect your energy levels. People with depression often experience low energy and a lack of motivation.
- Changes in appetite: Some people experiencing depression report a loss of appetite and little interest in food, while others report an increased appetite.
- Loss of pleasure: Sex or other activities that usually provide pleasure lose become less appealing with depression.
- Overwhelming feelings and emotions: People with depression often report feeling overwhelmed, are tearful and sad, and may also experience feelings of hopelessness and guilt or feel like a failure.
- Concentration problems: Depression affects the ability to concentrate or focus on a task. The brain can feel hazy and it can be difficult to make decisions. Some people also experience short-term memory loss.
- Suicidal ideation: In severe cases, depression can result in self-harm or someone considering ending their life. Anyone experiencing suicidal ideation should remove access to weapons, medication, and anything else that might cause harm, and seek help immediately. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.
We encourage you to find the help that you need and reach out to us or a medical provider for assistance. You do not need to suffer through a common and treatable condition.
*Please note that this article is not intended to act as medical advice or substitute your need to see a doctor. If you are concerned about your health, please consult your physician or medical provider, or contact Connections in Recovery for assistance. However, if you are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself, please seek immediate medical attention by calling 911.
Located in Portland, OR, Olivia Pennelle (Liv) is an experienced writer, journalist, and content strategist. She is the founder of the popular site Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, a site dedicated to providing the ingredients to live a fulfilling life in recovery. Liv also co-founded the podcast Breaking Free: Your Recovery. Your Way. Liv is passionate about challenging limiting mentalities and empowering others to direct their own lives, health, and recovery. You can find her articles across the web on podcasts and publications, including The Fix, Ravishly, Workit Health, Grok Nation, and STAT News.