7 Questions to Help You Know If You’re Depressed
Everybody feels blue once in a while. When you experience a death in the family, a divorce, a job loss, a health scare, or a global pandemic, you may feel down. But how do you know if you’re depressed or just sad? There’s a difference between normal feelings of sadness and clinical depression.
Here’s are 7 questions to ask yourself to help determine if you may have a depressive disorder.
1. How long do your negative feelings last?
So you feel sad and blue and just want to cry. That may be normal if the feeling is temporary and goes away in a few days. It’s when crushing negativity lingers for weeks or months and you just can’t shake it that it’s a sign it may be depression.
2. Do you find joy in anything?
If you’ve lost interest in activities you usually enjoy—whether it’s work, hobbies, sports, socializing with friends, or having sex with your spouse—it may be a symptom of depressive disorder. One of the most hallmark symptoms of this condition is no longer deriving joy from the things you used to think were nice, fun, or awesome. Psychiatrists call this “anhedonia,” a term that indicates an inability to feel pleasure.
3. Are you experiencing significant changes in your appetite or weight?
Classically, people with depression tend to lose their appetite, eat less, and lose weight. In fact, loss of appetite can be an early sign of the condition, so if you’ve lost interest in eating, it’s time to pay attention. In winter depression, however, people tend to feel hungrier and put on weight. If you notice any changes in appetite or weight, it’s worth investigating. Be aware that the sudden onset of feelings of depression (and anxiety) in people who have never experienced them before can also be a warning sign of pancreatic cancer. Speaking with your physician and getting a CT scan of the abdomen may be recommended.
4. Do you think about dying, have recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or have you begun planning how you would take your own life?
You may be surprised to discover that having thoughts of suicide is not unusual. In fact, a study among college undergraduate students found that 55% had thought about killing themselves at some point in their lifetime. Just because you have the thought that you want to end your life, however, doesn’t mean it’s true. You don’t have to believe every thought you have because your thoughts can lie, and they lie a lot. Your brain’s frontal lobes help protect you from acting on such thoughts. Having a suicidal thought doesn’t mean you need to share it. But if you begin to plan how you would carry out a suicide, you need to share with loved ones or with a mental healthcare professional because you need outsiders to protect you from yourself.
Brain imaging studies show that people with suicidal thoughts who make a plan or an attempt on their own life often have abnormal activity in the left temporal lobe. Problems in this area of the brain—often due to some form of head trauma—is associated with violence, either toward yourself (suicide) or toward others (homicide). Understand that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary feeling. In addition, taking one’s life damages loved ones. Children of parents who die by suicide are more than 3 times as likely to also die by suicide, according to a 2015 study in JAMA Psychiatry.
5. Are you experiencing changes in your sleep?
Do you find that you are sleeping more than usual or that you’re having trouble sleeping? A common pattern seen in people with depression is falling asleep, then waking up at 2 a.m., and being unable to go back to sleep. Smoking marijuana or drinking alcohol as a way to induce sleepiness can backfire and is likely to cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.
6. Do you have low physical and mental energy levels?
People with a depressive disorder often feel physically and mentally fatigued. “Brain fog” is a common complaint among those who have been diagnosed with clinical depression. If you typically feel energetic and mentally sharp but have been experiencing a prolonged period of low energy or a fuzzy memory, it can be a sign of a more serious issue.
7. Are you wracked with feelings of hopelessness?
Most people have fleeting moments when they feel worthless or hopeless, or are filled with guilt, but when you can’t get rid of these feelings for weeks or longer, it’s more likely to be a symptom of depression.
WHEN IT’S TIME TO SEEK HELP
If you have several of the symptoms described above and they have lasted for an extended period of time, it’s time to get help. It’s also critical to find out what’s causing your depression. Research shows that biological risk factors—such as inflammation, head trauma, exposure to toxins, neurohormone deficiencies, and diabesity (diabetes and obesity)—can contribute to mental health issues, such as depression. Addressing these risk factors with alternatives to antidepressants can help minimize symptoms of depression.
Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and other mental health issues can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting until life gets back to “normal” is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.
At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.