When life gets hard, it can sometimes be difficult to tell up from down. You know that you’re struggling, and you know that every day brings new feelings of sadness, fear, and despair. What you don’t know, though, is whether or not you’re suffering from a mental health condition or if you’re simply going through a hard time. You might be asking yourself, “Am I depressed?”
The answer to this question can be difficult for anybody who is not a mental health professional to figure out on their own. After all, we all feel down sometimes. What’s the difference between “just” sadness and depression? And if you are dealing with something more than just sadness, how can depression be treated?
In this article, we’ll go over some of the major signs of clinical depression to watch out for in yourself, so you can get treatment when you need it.
The first step to identifying whether you’re just feeling sad or you’re experiencing depression is to be aware of what depression actually looks like. When we talk about “depression”, we’re usually referring to a clinically diagnosable mental health condition that’s officially called major depressive disorder. The symptoms of major depressive disorder include:
- A low, depressed mood most of the time
- Loss of interest in the activities that you used to enjoy
- Significant changes in weight
- Problems sleeping (sleeping too little or too much)
- Moving slowly enough to be noticed by others
- Fatigue or low energy most of the time
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
- Difficulty focusing
- Thoughts of death or wanting to end your life
If you’ve experienced at least five of these symptoms over a period of several weeks or more, then it may be time to seek professional help for depression.
What causes depression?
Depression is a complex disease. Like most other health conditions, there isn’t one thing that causes it. There are many different factors that can lead to depression, including:
In other words, something has happened in your environment, like a big loss or a traumatic event, that can absolutely lead to depression. This is even more true if you’re already genetically and biologically predisposed to depression.
When Should You Reach Out to a Professional Regarding Your Depression?
Some of the symptoms of depression, when we look at the clinical diagnosis criteria, can be a little bit confusing to navigate. For example, low mood? You may have a low mood because you recently lost your job. How can we tell when a low mood crosses the line into depression?
If you’ve recently been wondering, “Am I depressed?” ask yourself the following questions.
- When was the last time that I didn’t feel sad? If it’s been over 2 weeks, you may be suffering from clinical depression.
- Am I experiencing physical symptoms like fatigue, weight gain or loss, or lack of sex drive, that are unexplained by other physical conditions? These physical symptoms may be signals of depression.
- Am I talking to my friends about how I feel, or do I find myself socially isolating? People who are depressed often isolate themselves instead of reaching out to their support system.
- Am I having thoughts about harming myself or ending my life? Depression can sometimes come along with suicidal thoughts and feelings.
- Do I often feel hopeless, worthless, or helpless to change my situation? Does it feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel? These types of feelings could signify that you’re facing clinical depression, not just sadness.
- Do you only ever feel sad? Usually, when people are sad about something specific, like the loss of a loved one, for example, there are happy memories mixed in with their sad thoughts. If your experience is that you only ever feel sad over a prolonged period of time, you may be suffering from depression.
- Are my feelings and symptoms significantly affecting my life negatively? Are they disrupting my ability to work, for example, or my relationships?
If you’ve noticed any of these signs in yourself, it may be time to reach out for professional help. Mental health treatment providers specialize in helping you get through any mental health struggle you may be having, including depression.
It’s worth noting that you don’t need to be experiencing any of these signs to go see a therapist. People see therapists for all sorts of reasons, from clinical depression to self-improvement to simply needing a compassionate space during a difficult time in life. If you’re still not sure about whether or not you’re depressed, a therapist can help you figure it out — and work with you on anything you might be going through, even if you don’t get diagnosed with depression.
Lean Into Your Support System
If you’re asking yourself, “Am I depressed?” then you’re probably going through some mental health struggles, whether or not you meet the diagnostic criteria for depression. Be compassionate with yourself; whether you have depression or not, you still deserve support and care.
When you’re struggling with your mental health, lean into your support system. Whether it’s friends, family members, or even someone at your place of worship, social support is key to getting through any difficult time in life — depressive episodes and otherwise. This is especially important because depression often causes people to isolate themselves from the people who care about them. Try to catch yourself if you find yourself self-isolating, and do what you can to reach out to others, even when you don’t feel like it.
If you don’t feel like you have this kind of emotional support in your life, seeing a therapist may be a good idea. Working with a therapist can provide you with the emotional support you need to get through this. A therapist can also help you figure out what kind of changes can be made in your life so that you can have more of the social support you need and deserve.
Comprehensive Mental Health Care in San Antonio
Whether you’re wondering “Am I depressed?” or not, you’re probably going through a rough time if you’ve found your way to this article — and no one should have to go through those times alone. At Genesis Behavioral Health, we’re here to help you thrive, not just survive. Reach out to our office today to learn how we can help you on your mental health journey.