I’ve struggled with depression since I was in primary school. As a result, I often have to ask myself, “am I depressed?” because it can be hard for me to tell. There’s only a subtle difference between my normal state and my depressive state. I became dangerously depressed at such a young age that lasted so long that I don’t even remember what it feels like to live without being depressed. Because of that, I thought comprising a list of warning signs would be beneficial for me and for my readers.
Am I Depressed?: What Is Depression?
It makes sense to start off with a definition of depression before telling you what the warning signs of it are. So here we go. One thing that people often get wrong about depression is that it’s just a state of unhappiness. Feeling unhappy from time to time is a part of life. It’s not enough to just be unhappy to be classed as depressed.
Depression is when you persistently feel low for weeks and even months at a time, rather than for just a couple of days of feeling sad (NHS). What makes depression depression is its refusal to go away. However, some people think depression isn’t real, that it’s nothing to be concerned about, but they’d be wrong. Depression is very real and sometimes you’ll have to take antidepressants to help regain your quality of life.
Am I Depressed?: Warning Signs
Feeling constantly unhappy or melancholy
As I covered in the definition of depression, depression is more than just feeling unhappy. Feeling sad is, of course, a part of what makes depression, depression. But with depression, it’s about how long you’ve been feeling unhappy. As a basic rule of thumb, if you’ve felt unhappy most of the day every day for two weeks at least (Rethink), then you could have depression. Thus, if you’ve had this feeling of feeling low for a long time, then it’s time to consider that you’re not sad, but depressed instead.
Feeling lonely and disconnected from others
One paradox of depression is how you can feel lonely and disconnected or push people away, which then makes you feel lonely and disconnected. If you notice yourself feeling lonely or that you’re pushing people away and you don’t know why, then this could be a sign to ask yourself, am I depressed?
Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities or hobbies
Hobbies, interests, and getting involved with activities are very important to our mental wellbeing. Therefore, if you lose interest in these, then it’s a clear sign something might be going on and you’re feeling depressed. It’s unlikely you’d stop engaging in activities and hobbies that bring your joy unless you were feeling depressed. That means if you’ve lost interest in doing the things you previously enjoyed, then you could be depressed.
Being very tearful
There’s nothing wrong with crying, as it can help us feel better once we’re done. However, when you’re depressed, you can be tearful all the time, and any little thing can set you off. If you’re feeling tearful and there’s no real reason for it, ask yourself, am I depressed?
Feeling continuously anxious
To my knowledge, depression doesn’t cause anxiety. However, the two often co-occur (Healthline). So if you’re feeling nervousness, restlessness, tense, or dread, or physical symptoms like trembling, rapid heartbeat, or sweating, then you could have anxiety and depression.
Constantly feeling exhausted
One of the more annoying things about depression is always feeling exhausted. It doesn’t matter what time of day it might be or how much sleep you’ve had, you just have a lack of energy. We often don’t realise just how much energy it takes to do things in life, because when you’re happy, you have energy to spare. But when you’re depressed, that energy reserve just isn’t there. Thus, if you’re feeling more exhausted than usual, then it’s time to ask yourself, am I depressed?
Changes to your sleep
Insomnia has been the bane of my life. And good night’s sleep can work wonders for our mental health. Thus, if you’re struggling to fall asleep (this could also be because of stress), keep waking up, or a mixture of the two, then this could be a sign of depression. The other sleep issue that can develop is sleeping too much, which again is a sign of depression. So how’s your sleep at the moment?
Having no appetite or noticing changes to your weight
There’s a reason comfort eating is so well known. We eat away our emotions because food can trigger our happy centres in our brain. But not everyone with depression will over eat, some might eat less because they have no motivation to cook or eat.
Therefore, if you notice a change in your appetite or weight, then you could be feeling depressed. To help combat this, try out my quick and easy depression meals if you’re struggling to cook for yourself. You can find those meal ideas here.
Loss of optimism
I’ve always thought that depression is an extreme version of nihilism, which is why it can lead to many people annihilating themselves. If you noticed that your negativity bias has increased, that you see the world through a darker lense, then you could be depressed. Have you started focusing on the negative outcomes for everything or expecting the worse all the time? Then ask yourself, “am I depressed?”
In fact, there are a lot of thinking errors you can find yourself trapped in when you’re feeling depressed. Thinking errors like “should” statements, mistaking feelings for facts, and converting positives into negatives. To find out more about these thinking errors, click here.
Experiencing physical aches and pains
Depression can affect more than just our mental wellbeing, it can affect our physical bodies as well. One of the most common physical health warnings of depression is experiencing unexplained aches and pains, such as joint pain, bloating, and backaches (Bakersfield Behavioral Healthcare Hospital).
Slow, heavy, lethargic and painful … Everything feels 1000 times harder to do. To get out of bed, hold a cup of tea, it’s all such an effort. My entire body aches and feels like it is going to break.
According to a study by Woo et al. (2004), depressed people reported psychosomatic manifestations, such as headaches and stomach-aches. Are you experiencing more tension in your shoulder than usual? Are you getting headaches? Do your joints hurt? Are you experiencing an increase in aches and pains or have new aches and pains? If you’re answering yes to any of these, then it might be time to consider, am I depressed?
Loss of self-esteem
One of the first things you might notice when you’re starting to feel depressed is changes to your self-esteem. Such changes can lead to an increased need for external validation, such as becoming promiscuous. But it can also just be that you’re having more negative thoughts about yourself, changing your self-image.
So, have you noticed any negative changes about how you see yourself or the stuff you’ve done? Maybe you’ve started feeling like your work isn’t good enough or your partner is too good for you. If any of that rings a bell, ask yourself, am I depressed?
Loss of sex drive
This issue can often be a problem in relationships, especially if you don’t have good communication with your partner(s). I lost my sex drive when I had to get rid of my dreadlocks because of all my hair destroying behaviours. My lack of sex drive is so non-existent that I now considered myself asexual, which is a far cry from my hyper-sex drive that my borderline personality disorder caused previously (Sansone and Sansone, 2011).
Loss of motivation
As mentioned in changes to appetite and weight, a lack of motivation can be a critical issue with depression. Basically, a depressed person likely knows what they need to do and what might help them stop feeling depressed, but they don’t act according to this awareness (Smith, 2013).
Depression strips us of our ability to take action, which is why it’s hard to get over depression. Such lack of motivation is also one of the three key criteria for taking an antidepressant, as talking therapy alone can’t help here. If you’re experiencing a lack of motivation, then ask yourself, am I depressed? Then ask yourself how badly you might be depressed. Have you stopped doing things, such as the things you enjoy? If so, it might be time to talk to your GP.
Difficulty making decisions
This is a common issue that gets brought up as a therapy goal. Depression comes wrapped up in self-doubt a lot of the time. So it can also be a sign of depression, especially if you’ve not had this problem with deciding before. If you’ve noticed changes regarding how easy it is for you to make decisions, then you could be depressed.
Depression can cause us to become forgetful, which means if we’re given instructions to do something, a depressed person might forget what they’re doing. Concentration can appear it others ways as well, such as being easily distracted and a general lack of focus. Therefore, if you’ve noticed you’re not paying attention when you should be, forgetting things you normally wouldn’t, struggling to focus, or have become easily distracted, then this could be a sign you have depression.
Because depression can dull our emotions, someone with depression might engage in risky behaviours in order to feel something. These risky behaviours include, but are not limited to, drinking excessively, gambling, doing drugs, having unsafe sex, and engaging in self-half (WebMD).
You’re feeling irritable
Much like with a lack of motivation, you can also experience a lack of energy to control your emotions. This lack of energy can mean your patience has shank, you’re more irritable than normal, and can be quick to angry outbursts. Thus, if you’ve noticed that small things are annoying you more than normal or that you have less time for people as you feel they’re getting on your nervous, then this could mean you’re depressed.
Preoccupied with feelings of guilt or worthlessness
Although I’ve rarely had an issue with guilt myself, I do struggle with feeling worthless, as my depression is very nihilistic. However, if you’re feeling like you’re letting people down or that you’re a burden (Clinical Partners), then ask yourself, am I depressed? These intrusive thoughts are heavily associated with depression, because if you’re happy or content, you wouldn’t even consider such things.
If you notice an increase in these kinds of thoughts, then please talk to someone. Friends, family, your GP, or one of the many mental health lines that exist. You can find mental health line information on my Global Crisis Lines And Support and UK Crisis Lines And Support pages.
Lack of interest in physical appearance or personal hygiene
I’m guilty of this one a lot. With feeling tired and drained all the time, your motivation to look after your personal hygiene and appearance can go out of the window. This sign of depression might show its self by you delaying when you clean your teeth, wash your face, shower, etc. You might also start skipping when you wash or start wearing the same clothes day after day.
Have you started avoiding doing your laundry and just wearing the same clothes each day? Are you skipping washing your hair or shower times more frequently? Are you still cleaning your teeth twice a day? If you’ve noticed changes like these, then ask yourself, am I depressed?
There’s a reason that in cartoons you often see the characters’ shoulders go droopy when they’re sad. That reason is because people with depression often slouch and have droopy shoulders, because it mirrors their down mood. Cartoons use droopy shoulders because it’s a real easy way to convey sadness. In fact, according to Psychology Today, if you attempt to maintain good posture, you can help yourself feel less depressed.
Support for changes in posture comes from Canales, Cordás, Fiquer, Cavalcante, and Moreno (2010). They found that people with depression experience changes in posture, they also develop mild dissatisfaction with their body image. So, has your posture got worse recently? If so, you could be depressed, and one way to help feel less depressed would be to fake it to you make by correcting your posture.
Drug and alcohol abuse
There’s a bad habit a lot of us can fall into when we’re feeling depressed, and that’s to drink alcohol or do drugs. We associate these substances with having fun, but if you’re using them as a coping mechanism, then you’re using them for the wrong reasons. You will not stop feeling depressed just because you drink more or take drugs. In fact, you’re more likely to make yourself feel worse.
If you notice that your drinking has increased or your drug taking has increased (or you’ve started taking drugs), then this could be a sign you’re feeling depressed.
I talked about suicidal ideation in an article not that long ago. I wrote that article to help people to understand what it’s like to have suicidal thoughts if they haven’t experienced them before. Simply put, if you’re questioning if anyone would miss you if you died, that the world would be better if you didn’t exist, then ask yourself, am I depressed?
However, if you’re having thoughts of how you might take your life or see images of your death, then skip asking yourself, “am I depressed?” and move right to looking for support. You can find mental health line information on my Global Crisis Lines And Support and UK Crisis Lines And Support pages.
Changes to your menstrual cycle
For some reason, talking about the menstrual cycle and the menopause are taboo subjects, but I don’t agree. It’s important to talk about these because they’re important to people’s health, even if you’re not the one that has to experience them.
Depression can alter hormone levels in the body, which can lead to menstrual irregularities (Padda et al., 2021). Therefore, if you notice any changes to your menstrual cycle then this could be a sign you have depression. There could be other causes, of course, so it’s important to talk to your GP about the changes to your menstrual cycle.
There are a lot of warnings signs that could show you have depression, but often these can and will be overlooked. Depression can present itself differently in individuals. Some people might not be able to look after themselves when they’re depressed. But others might be able to function normally.
Because we are the society we are, we don’t tend to do anything until it’s got too bad to handle on our own. However, that’s not the way we should be living. So if you experience some of the above signs of depression, do ask yourself, am I depressed?
If you think you are depressed, don’t wait for it to get worse before doing something about it. Talk to someone. Make an appointment to see your GP or a therapist. Call a mental health help line. Or Visit a mental health organisation’s website.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, please share your experiences feeling depressed in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
Canales, J. Z., Cordás, T. A., Fiquer, J. T., Cavalcante, A. F., & Moreno, R. A. (2010). Posture and body image in individuals with major depressive disorder: a controlled study. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, 32, 375-380. Retrieved from https://www.scielo.br/j/rbp/a/qn3BKYyz7sPDf5YkJrDcQ7c/?lang=en.
Padda, J., Khalid, K., Hitawala, G., Batra, N., Pokhriyal, S., Mohan, A., Zubair, U., Cooper, A. C., & Jean-Charles, G. (2021). Depression and Its Effect on the Menstrual Cycle. Cureus, 13(7), e16532. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.16532 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8378322.
Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2011). Sexual behavior in borderline personality: a review. Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 8(2), 14–18. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3071095.
Smith, B. (2013). Depression and motivation. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 12(4), 615-635. Retrieved from https://dro.dur.ac.uk/19265/1/19265.pdf.
Woo, B. S., Chang, W. C., Fung, D. S., Koh, J. B., Leong, J. S., Kee, C. H., & Seah, C. K. (2004). Development and validation of a depression scale for Asian adolescents. Journal of adolescence, 27(6), 677-689. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0140197104000272.