20 Subtle Signs You're Depressed, Say Experts
Life is weird right now. Because of COVID-19, we're all cooped up inside, waiting for our turn to get vaccinated—or, after vaccination, being told we still have to be careful. Our daily routine still involves working from home, eating at home and Zooming from home. In such strange times, your mood is bound to be negatively affected. But it's important to check in on your mental health to ensure you're not facing a bigger problem: depression. Check out these 20 subtle signs you may be depressed. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
You Give Up on Reaching Out
Right now, it's hard to stay in contact with friends and family members. Social media, video chats, or text messages feel impersonal or awkward, which can make you want to give up on reaching out for social interactions. But if you're hopeless about maintaining relationships and feel yourself pulling away, it may be a sign you're depressed.
A study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology analyzed people living with depression and their daily social interactions. The study concluded that "people with greater depressive symptoms feel that they experience worse social interactions" and "people with greater depressive symptoms reported less satisfaction of their need to belong." Your listless attitude toward socializing may be a sign that depression is creeping in.
You're Always Hungry…
Binge eating and the subsequent weight gain may cause depression. But this theory goes both ways: Depression or anxiety may be the culprit for your insatiable appetite and binge-eating sessions.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, "Two-thirds of people with eating disorders suffer from an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives and around 42% had developed an anxiety disorder during childhood." An anxiety disorder is usually what triggers binge eating. Your uncontrollable appetite may simply be caused by boredom, but it could also be a sign of anxiety or depression.
…Or You're Never Hungry
On the flip side, a loss in appetite may also be a sign that you're heading toward depression. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry analyzed the appetites of participants diagnosed with depression. It concluded that 35% of depressed participants experienced an increase in appetite while "approximately 48% of adult depressed patients exhibited depression-related decreases in appetite." If you've noticed you're not hungry and your food intake has decreased, it may mean you're depressed.
You Just Want to Sleep…
Excessive sleepiness without reason is referred to as hypersomnia. If you're out of work and stuck in the house, you may feel the need to nap out of boredom or lack of activity. A study published in BMC Medicine looked into sleep's relationship with depression. The study concluded that "Mood symptoms are frequently reported in hypersomnia disorders of central origin." If you have the desire to sleep all day, you may find that affects your mood, which may signify the onset of depression.
…Or You Can't Sleep
Insomnia is another potential sign of depression. If you toss and turn every night, not only is it a sign that your mental health is in disarray, it may also be contributing to your problem. A study published in Sleep analyzed how insomnia and lack of sleep instigated and exacerbated the symptoms of a major depressive disorder (MDD). It concluded: "Insomnia is related to decreased quality of life, social and interpersonal functioning, and workplace performance, and any of these could result in levels of distress or life events that may trigger, maintain, or worsen MDD."
You Don't Find Joy in Your Hobbies
Many are using this time of social distancing to engage in hobbies they love, such as reading, knitting, playing an instrument or exercising. If you've given up on the activities you used to find enjoyable because they don't seem fun anymore, you may need to analyze your mental health status.
According to Psychology Today, the loss of interest in hobbies and activities you used to enjoy is referred to as anhedonia, and it's directly linked to depression and other mood disorders: "People suffering from clinical depression lose interest in hobbies, friends, work, and even food and sex." If you can't seem to squeeze an ounce of joy out of finishing a crossword puzzle or eating the perfect chocolate chip cookie, you may be suffering from depression.
If you've been stuck at home for a while now, feeling aggrieved by family members or the general situation is normal. But unexplainable and severe irritability that you can't control may have a deeper meaning.
A study published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease analyzed depressed participants and asked about their irritability levels. It found that "55.1% of the participants answered 1 (I get annoyed or irritated more easily than I used to), 18.1% of the participants answered 2 (I get annoyed or irritated more easily than I used to)." Unexplained and uncontrollable irritability may not just be a frustrating side effect of social isolation; it may be a symptom of depression.
You Have No Energy
A body at rest tends to stay at rest. If you're using social distancing as an opportunity to catch up on reality TV shows and eat an entire bag of chips in one sitting, you may find yourself experiencing a lower energy level. However, if your energy has declined for no clear reason and you simply can't find the motivation to get anything done, it may be a sign of depression.
In a study published in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience on major depressive disorders (MDDs), Maurizio Fava, MD, states, "Fatigue is one of the most prevalent presenting symptoms of MDD, the second most prominent residual symptom of MDD, and is often associated with impaired concentration, irritability, and reduced productivity." If you can't seem to get moving and feel like you have consistent low energy levels, you may need to take a second look at your mental state.
You Have Body Aches
Body aches and other pains may be signs you worked out too hard or you're getting the flu. But unexplained pains may also be a sign that your mental health is suffering. According to the Mayo Clinic, "In many people, depression causes unexplained physical symptoms such as back pain or headaches. This kind of pain may be the first or the only sign of depression." If you're starting to experience body aches with no explanation, pay attention to this symptom and consider whether you may be depressed.
You Feel Hopeless
Social distancing guidelines for the coronavirus are vague, and the timeline is muddy. It's no wonder you may feel hopeless about the situation from time to time, especially if your children are out of school or you've lost your job because of the pandemic. But a consistent feeling of hopelessness may be a sign that you need help to avoid falling into depression.
Hopelessness is a serious symptom of depression because if you let it spiral, it can lead to suicidal thoughts. According to a study published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology, cognitive theorists agree that "Greater hopelessness was associated both with an increase in suicidal wishes and with more negative expectations about real-life problems."
You Can't Focus
Ever feel like you're thinking in circles? Trying to focus on the task at hand but your mind wanders to past events? If you can't concentrate occasionally, it's completely normal. But if you frequently feel like it's impossible to focus, it may be a sign that you need to examine your mental health.
According to James Cartreine, Ph.D., "Depression can actually change your ability to think. It can impair your attention and memory, as well as your information processing and decision-making skills. It can also lower your cognitive flexibility (the ability to adapt your goals and strategies to changing situations) and executive functioning (the ability to take all the steps to get something done)."
You're Suddenly Impulsive
If your schedule has flip-flopped because of COVID-19, it's natural to go a little stir-crazy. Maybe you decide to buy a ping-pong table for the garage one day or completely rearrange your living room furniture the next. But if you start engaging in impulsive behavior that's harmful to your health, it's cause for concern.
You may exhibit reckless behavior, such as drug use or gambling, to chase rewarding feelings that your brain isn't providing because of depression. It's also a symptom of other mental health disorders, such as mania. According to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, "Total and attentional impulsivity correlated independently with depression and mania scores. Non-planning impulsivity correlates with depression scores." If you find yourself making irrational and harmful decisions that could negatively impact your life, you may need to evaluate your mental health.
You're Obsessed With Perfection
If the threat of coronavirus has you scrubbing your kitchen counter until it shines every day, it's understandable. But if you've suddenly developed an obsession with perfection that's affecting your moods, there may be a deeper issue, and it could be a sign of depression.
According to Neurocore Brain Performance Centers, "For those with depression, perfectionism can stem from a cognitive distortion believing that making mistakes will cause others to stop loving or accepting them. This can lead these individuals to set exceptionally high standards, and if those standards aren't met, they can end up feeling like a failure." Your perfectionism and disappointment can make you spiral into a cycle of depression. If you've noticed this obsession with perfection, you may need to seek help from a counselor.
You Stop Brushing Your Hair
If you're stuck at home because of COVID-19, the days may run together, and it's easy to stay in pajamas for hours or maybe forget to brush your teeth. But if you've stopped caring about your appearance because you're feeling listless or lack energy, it may be connected to depression.
According to Deborah Serani, Psy.D, your care for your appearance and grooming is connected to your brain's frontal lobes: "Depression has long been associated with dysfunction of the frontal lobes, so it's not a surprise that people with depression find it hard to self-care." You may not feel like washing your hair because you just started the last episode of Ozark, or you may have lost motivation due to the onset of depression.
You Constantly Criticize Yourself
A little self-deprecation is healthy, but if you're feeling like everything you do is wrong, it's not only unhealthy, it may be a sign of depression. A study published in Omega found, "Self-criticism was positively associated with depressive symptoms and negatively associated with self-compassion."
You Lash Out at Loved Ones
If you're social distancing with family members, you're probably spending more time together than ever before. You're bound to get annoyed with each other and need some space. But if you're having mood swings and lashing out at those you love, your mental state may be in jeopardy.
According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, "People with depressive illness often have symptoms of overt or suppressed anger." It's understandable if your situation is frustrating right now. But if you're experiencing uncontrollable outbursts of anger aimed at your loved ones, it may be a sign you're dealing with depression.
You Feel Anxious
Our thoughts and attention are focused on COVID-19, which has proven to be unpredictable and deadly. It's only normal to feel a bit anxious right now. However, anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. If you're having constant feelings of anxiety, you may need to seek counseling, especially during this tough time.
According to Katie Hurley, LCSW, "Studies show that between 10% and 20% of adults in any given 12-month period will visit their primary care physician during a depressive or anxiety disorder episode, and that nearly 50% of them will suffer from a co-morbid, secondary depressive or anxiety disorder."
You Think About Death A Lot
Thinking about death or contemplating suicide is a definite sign you need to seek counseling, as it may be a symptom of depression. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, "Although the majority of people who have depression do not die by suicide, having major depression does increase suicide risk compared to people without depression. It is estimated that about 60% of people who commit suicide have had a mood disorder." Whether you think you have depression or not, it's important to get help if you find yourself thinking about harming yourself.
You Can't Control Your Emotions
Mood swings are a part of life, especially when we're dealing with an unpredictable virus that's changed our daily lives. But if you feel like you can't control your emotions most of the time, you may be dealing with depression.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of depression may include, "feeling sad or anxious often or all the time and feeling irritable, easily frustrated‚ or restless." If your emotions are all over the place, talk to a counselor as soon as possible.
You Just Want to Be Alone
If you're on your third game of Monopoly with the family and you desperately want to curl up in bed and read a book in silence for a few minutes, it's totally understandable. All this time at home with your family can be overwhelming, and sometimes a few moments by yourself will help you recharge. But if you feel yourself disengaging from people you love and seeking solitude in an unhealthy way, it may be a sign of a mental health issue.
A study conducted by the Danish National Institute of Public Health analyzed the symptoms of depression in older adults. "We identified two significant longitudinal mediation patterns with symptoms of depression, and two with anxiety symptoms," the researchers said. "Overall, social disconnectedness predicted higher subsequent perceived isolation, which in turn predicted higher depression symptoms and anxiety symptoms." Alone time is precious right now, but if you find yourself purposely isolating yourself, you may be clinically depressed.
If you can relate to any of the signs above, it may be time to focus on your mental health—reach out for virtual help from a counselor. If you're thinking about suicide, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.