Depression is one of the most common mental health issues Americans face each year. If we are to believe commercials for antidepressants, the main defining symptom of depression is “feeling blue.” While sadness and depressed mood are key symptoms in diagnosing the disorder, there are many other symptoms and lifestyle changes that are associated with depression. Many of these symptoms might not be recognized as depression, either by observers or by the depressed person him- or herself. Below are some of the lesser known symptoms of depression:
- Change in appetite – Either eating more frequently or in greater amounts than typical, or by having a reduced appetite. Associated weight changes may also be present.
- Change in sleep habits – Either sleeping more or less than before without an obvious cause (i.e., change in work schedule, increased caffeine use)
- Fatigue – A sense of tiredness that won’t go away
- Alcohol or substance use – Using alcohol or drugs to cope with emotional pain
- Forced happiness – Putting on a smile and seeming upbeat to cover up internal pain. Because this takes a lot of mental energy that a depressed person lacks, there may be occasional lapses where depressed feelings show through.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unexplained physical ailments, such as pain, headaches, and digestive issues
- Frequent anger and irritability – Particularly among men, who tend to display these issues more outwardly than sadness
- Loss of interest in hobbies or sex – Showing a marked change in these areas
Many people experience one or two of these symptoms on occasion but may not be considered depressed. Having many of these symptoms increases the likelihood that depression is present. It can be helpful to have an understanding of these symptoms to increase awareness of one’s own internal experience or that of a loved one. Assessment by a mental health professional can confirm a diagnosis and provide guidance on treatment.