Everyone has a bad day from time to time, but how do you know when the occasional “blues” is really depression? The distinction isn’t clear, which is why depression is often missed in its mildest form. But catching it early can help you manage it before it gets worse.
Most symptoms of depression are found at every level, whether the depression is mild, moderate, or severe. Common feelings of mild depression include irritability or sadness, a feeling of hopelessness, guilt, or low self-esteem, low motivation at work or school, and a loss of interest in things you used to like. You may feel achy for no reason and be fatigued during the day or unable to sleep at night – or both.
People probably don’t notice your feelings and you might not think they’re worth telling a doctor about. You tell yourself that everyone has stress, everyone has down days, right? Well, yes, but not everyone feels bad most of the time. If you feel this way for a few days out of every week, or if the feelings persist for more than a few weeks in a row, talk to a professional.
Fortunately, at the mild stage, simple changes can make a big difference. You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s true: exercise decreases feelings of depression just as well as some medications do. Exercise causes the brain to release hormones that actually improve your mood, and the improvement is long-lasting. Also proven to be effective are yoga, meditation, and picking up a hobby. Be sure to keep a regular sleep schedule and eat nutritious food to strengthen your brain and heal your mood.
Moderate depression includes the symptoms of mild depression, only they’re deeper and more frequent. Your low self-esteem may become self-loathing. Your low motivation may mean you just can’t do anything, affecting your performance at work or at school. And you may completely stop doing the things you used to love or stop spending time with your friends.
At this point, you may realize something is wrong. If you’ve stopped socializing, your friends might notice, too. Please talk to your doctor, a counselor, or a support group. Those activities that help people with mild depression will help you, too, but you may need more. Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, which I use in my practice, can be very effective. Also, the prescription of supplements or antidepressants can be considered when necessary.
Severe or major depression
This condition requires immediate medical help, because not only are the symptoms of moderate depression present in a deeper form, additional dangerous symptoms such as suicidal thoughts, delusions, and hallucinations can also occur, endangering yourself or others.
Everyone feels the various, individual symptoms of depression at some point in their lives. The difference is that those who struggle with depression have many symptoms at once, occurring frequently or all the time. People with mild depression may feel like they can “handle it” on their own, or “that’s just life.” It’s not. Seek help.
Those with moderate or severe depression may be too unmotivated to even reach out for help, so it’s up to loved ones to help the person with depression see that there is hope and there is help available. Please contact a support network, doctor, or counselor for yourself or your loved one right away. You deserve to feel better.