Mental health awareness month

Mental Health Awareness Month: Major Signs of Depression

Mental Health Awareness Month: Major Signs of Depression
A depressed person sinking into substance abuse IMAGE:

May is the official Mental Health Awareness Month around the world. It was first observed in 1949 by the Mental Health America organization to bring attention to the importance of mental well-being. Individuals, organizations, and governments double efforts and increase funding to boost research, awareness, and treatment and to reduce stigma around mental health illnesses.

The drive has helped address the challenges faced by people living with mental health conditions over the years. This special mental health awareness initiative is improving the understanding of mental health conditions and increasing access to healthcare for those who need it.

Depression is one common sign of a mental health disorder that affects both men and women, though women tend to suffer more from it. People who have been abused, and suffered life-changing events like unemployment, terminal disease, and bereavement are more likely to be affected.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), “Depressive Disorder (also known as depression) is a common mental disorder. It involves a depressed mood or loss of pleasure or interest in activities for long periods of time.”

Mental Health Awareness Month: Major Signs of Depression
An irritable partner could be undergoing depression IMAGE:

Patterns of Depressive Episodes

i) Single Episode Depressive Disorder

A person’s first and only episode

ii) Recurrent Depressive Disorder

A person has a history of at least two depressive episodes

iii) Bipolar Disorder

The depressive episodes alternate with periods of manic symptoms (euphoria or irritability, increased activity or energy) and other symptoms such as increased talkativeness, racing thoughts, increased self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, distractibility, and impulsive reckless behavior.  

Common Signs of Depression

1. Masking Unhappiness

This person might find it very challenging to express their feelings when sad. They might choose to avoid talking about what they’re going through and often cut people off to avoid explaining themselves all the time. A talkative person becomes quiet out of nowhere. This behavior is usually a defensive mechanism to try and maintain control of the situation and prevent others from seeing through their vulnerability.

2. Neglecting Self Care

Such people may stop caring about their own needs, both physical and emotional. The change is always noticeable. Shabby hair. Bed body odor. Unclean clothes. No longer working out (if they used to). Loss of weight is probably due to skipping meals and loss of appetite. Emotionally, they neglect their calm-giving rituals or become socially disconnected. This could be a sign of deep-seated unhappiness that robs them of the joy and energy to take care of themselves.

3. Increased Irritability

A depressed person might suddenly start snapping over minor situations. Overreacting is an unmistakable sign of depression where one is easily frustrated, reacting with anger more frequently than before. The tolerance threshold decreases when a person is undergoing inner turmoils.

4. Lack of Interest In Hobbies

Anhedonia, in psychology, is the inability to experience joy or pleasure. You may feel numb or less interested in things that you once enjoyed. It can be a key sign if it is combined with other signs and lasts for a prolonged period. The joy that was brought about by such activities as listening to music or painting no longer excites the person. Their unhappiness wears them down leaving them weak or unenergised to enjoy their hobbies.

This can take the form of:

  • Numbness.
  • Boredom.
  • Apathy.
  • Negativity.

5. Withdrawal Symptoms

According to psychology, this is a common behavior by women. It has been observed that unhappy women tend to withdraw from social situations and prefer spending time alone.

A once bubbly and outgoing person suddenly starts canceling plans or avoids going out in public. They fear unmasking their vulnerability, this in turn makes them a loner.

6. Physical Manifestations

Chronic stress can make the body weak manifesting as physical ailments. The body can pick up bad vibes and can sound an alarm. The signals can come in the form of joint pain, limb pain, back pain, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, psychomotor activity changes, and appetite changes.

Physical pain and depression have a deeper biological connection. The neurotransmitters that influence both pain and mood are serotonin and norepinephrine. Dysregulation of these transmitters is linked to both depression and pain.

These symptoms combined with the two or three signs above could be a great indicator of a depression episode.

Seek Professional Help

If you are going through any of the above or you notice someone experiencing these symptoms and signs, they could be undergoing a depressive disorder. Encourage them to seek professional help from medical practitioners before it’s too late. Prolonged periods of depression can turn suicidal. Community support groups also play a key role, especially for people who need urgent medical attention.