Sometimes you don’t see it coming.
I don’t tend to think of myself as someone who gets depressed.
Cheesy as it may sound, most days I wake up early, excited for what the new day will bring. Even when things are really rough, I’ll flash you my brightest smile and swear I’m just fine.
It’s not that I don’t get depressed; it’s that when I do, I can’t always see it. By the time I know what’s going on, I feel like I’ve already lost the battle. The depression is like a weight sitting right on top of me, pinning me down. It’s hard to crawl out from under it.
In an attempt to try and identify when I might be headed toward a spell of depression so I can nip it in the bud, I’ve started to take note of certain subtle but powerful red flags that let me know it’s time to step up my self-care routine. If these sound familiar to you too, don’t brush them off…
1. You’re tired all the time
It doesn’t matter how much sleep you get. In fact, sometimes the more sleep you get, the more tired you are. Your limbs may feel heavy and sluggish, and you can’t stop yawning.
“People who experience depression frequently describe feeling as if they are ‘weighed down’, says psychologist Dr Kimber Shelton.
“They’re carrying around heavy emotional burdens, which leaves them feeling tired all the time.”
Shelton points out that people who are depressed often have trouble sleeping as well, “which leaves them feeling mentally and physically exhausted.”
2. You don’t even bother getting up to go to the bathroom
The other morning I lay in my bed, desperately needing to use the bathroom, but unable to get out of bed. I could actually see the toilet from where I was lying — it was less than 20 feet away. And yet, hours passed and I didn’t move. By the time I actually got up, my bladder was about to burst.
It feels awful, and it’s one of the weirder ways I know I’m headed for a depressive spell, and a common sign of depression, which can cause mood changes that interfere with your ability to perform your regular routine, and even maintain your personal hygiene.
3. You don’t feel like eating, even your fave treats
I’m a sucker for anything sweet. A cupcake, a donut, or even a pack of Gummy Bears from the corner bodega can give me a little lift. But when I’m depressed, I don’t want any of those things. My appetite goes away completely.
Shelton says it’s not unusual for sufferers of depression to lose their appetite, but important to keep eating, even when you don’t feel like it.
“Even when the appropriate hunger cues aren’t being sent to the brain, we still need to eat to give our brain the sustenance it needs to operate effectively.”
Some blueberries, fish, or nuts are all great, brain-healthy choices.
4. You’re being mean to yourself
When I start to say terrible things to myself, I know I’m headed down a bad road. Negative self-talk is a classic sign of depression.
“Our thoughts have great power over our overall mood. If your thoughts are fired by negative self-talk, “I’m stupid,” or “I can’t do this,” or “No one loves me,” it’s highly likely that you’re depressed,” says Shelton.
5. You’re short-tempered and snappish
Depression has been called “anger turned inward,” but when I’m depressed, I certainly do my share of turning anger outward, too. Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health clinical assistant professor, Dr Jennifer Wolkin, says this symptom shouldn’t be overlooked.
“Increased irritability is a sneaky sign few people notice. You might feel cranky and grumpy; little things that normally wouldn’t register set you off and leave you snapping at friends and coworkers.”
6. You don’t do the things you know you should do to feel better
The other morning when I couldn’t get out of bed, my mother texted me, begging me to go for a run. I knew it would make me feel better — but I refused to do it.
“Depression makes you apathetic about activities and hobbies that once gave you joy, and that makes you isolate yourself,” says Wolkin.
“It sets up that vicious cycle: depression robs you of your ability to derive pleasure from experiences, so you stop doing the very things that could brighten your mood.”
7. You can’t concentrate
What was that? Sorry, I lost my train of thought… Being depressed makes me feel foggy, and then frustrated for feeling so out of it. It’s like I’ve had a big shot of Novocain in my cerebral cortex.
“Being preoccupied with thoughts of sadness and emptiness can plunge you into a head fog that affects your job, memory, and decision-making skills,” explains Wolkin.
So if you’ve been reading and nodding along, it might be time to speak to your GP about having a depression assessment and chat about lifestyle changes that may help ease your symptoms. With so many treatment options available to support mental health today, there’s no reason to suffer in silence.
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Comment: Do you have any telltale signs you’re heading into depression?