Author: Diane Dean, RN, LPC
Is it just the winter blues or full-fledged depression? Often it is fairly obvious that you or a loved one is feeling depressed. There are the familiar signs – fatigue, insomnia or excessive sleeping, weight gain or loss. But depression rears its head in other, less obvious ways, too. Since everyone transiently experiences almost all symptoms of depression from time to time, remember that in most cases, only a combination of several, prolonged symptoms should be cause for alarm. Feeling more than a bit under the weather when it comes to your mood? Read on to determine some lesser-known signs of depression.
Are you lashing out at others at the drop of a hat? Perhaps you find that the neighbor’s laughing grates your nerves to shreds? Crabbiness – being easily annoyed – is a potential sign of underlying depression that doesn’t get much air time. Irritable behavior may work to control one’s surroundings, including (but not limited to) interpersonal relationships. Also, an inability to cope with emotions leads to sudden emotional outbursts, which are easily triggered. Obviously, these symptoms are a difficult strain on both you and your loved ones.
Guilty as Not Charged
Feeling responsible for others’ sense of happiness, or emotional state? Excessive guilt is not commonly recognized by the public as a symptom of depression. Medical studies, however, have shown a high correlation between depression and what is called Omnipotent Responsibility Guilt. You may feel excessively accountable for the happiness of others, including constantly completing tasks for others at the expense of checking off items on your own list. This arises from a need to please others, and a feeling of inferiority.
Drifting thoughts and faulty memory are also missed signs of depression. Functional magnetic resonating image (fMRI) studies have shown that depressed individuals exhibit decreased brain activity when presented with significant items from their past. It is thought that some of this memory loss arises from an inability to focus properly when information is initially absorbed. If you find yourself unable to remember simple things – a friend’s address or why exactly you walked into the kitchen – it could be a sign of depression.
Anhedonia is a condition in which you no longer derive pleasure from activities that you once found engaging. The activities, of course, vary between individuals but might be jogging, playing sports, creating art, or even spending time with friends and family. If your favorite things now seem as enthralling as a congressman reading a dictionary out loud, you might be suffering from anhedonia. Because it often arises gradually, anhedonia may not be the easiest condition to recognize, so it’s best to pay attention to any alterations in your interests.
If you feel as though you exhibit some of these symptoms, perhaps in addition to a few of the more popularly recognized signs of depression, the first step is to contact your health care professional. While some truly effective treatments exist, pharmaceutical medicine isn’t for everyone, and there are some great herbal remedies that can help to alleviate mild to moderate depression. Passionflower is a popular herb for relieving anxiety, and St. John’s wort, a supplement made from a yellow flower, has much support for its use in the treatment of depression. In addition, lemon balm, a mint-like herb, has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety, which often accompanies depression.
Depression can be fatal and at the very least, reduce the quality of life. Regardless of the symptom profile, effective treatment remains crucial.