“I feel depressed.” For many of us, this is not a rare phrase to hear (or say). However, in a clinical sense, being “depressed” refers to a diagnosable mental health issue. Clinical depression is a common disorder and it means much more than feeling sad or blue. It presents some very obvious symptoms — and some lesser-known indicators, too.
Not many people associate depression with, say, reckless driving or risky sexual behavior. But these are just some of the possible signs. Therefore, one of the most important steps to take in dealing with depression is becoming familiar with its less obvious symptoms.
4 Lesser-Known Indicators of Depression
1. Substance Abuse
First and foremost, let’s be clear. Substance use disorders can be conditions and of themselves. However, abusing drugs or alcohol can be a dysfunctional way to self-medicate one’s depression. This is true even when a person doesn’t even realize they are depressed.
This is just one way that depression can go unrecognized. Also obscuring the connection is the reality that women are more prone to depression but men are more likely to self-medicate. In the end, while it temporarily numbs the emotions, eventually, substance abuse makes things feel worse.
2. Brain Fog
Across the board, studies show that depression has the potential to cause any or all of the following:
- Memory issues, both working memory, and long-term
- Inability to concentrate
- Impaired decision-making skills
- Slower than usual reaction times
There are many possible causes for such issues. Depression is one of them.
3. Weight Fluctuations
We typically assign weight changes to something physical. That’s partly why this sign flies under the radar in terms of depression. Another reason is that the symptoms can vary widely. Depression affects appetite. How it affects appetites is not easy to predict or identify. You could eat less and lose weight; eat more and lose weight; eat more and gain weight; or eat less and gain weight. What matters most is that two shifts are obvious: how much you eat and how much you weigh.
The general perception of someone with depression is of a lethargic, low-energy person. Meanwhile, different manifestations of anger are hallmarks of the disorder. It could range from impatience to irritability to aggression to rage. People may comment that the outburst was sudden or “out of nowhere” or “not like you.” This could be caused by depression feeling out of control. You grow ashamed of how you feel. Depression inspires guilt and fear. All these emotions need release somewhere.
- Am I more easily irritated?
- Do I get defensive when people ask me about myself?
- Are people tiptoeing around me and avoiding me if possible?
- Am I driving people away at the time I need help the most?
All of the above can be symptoms of many other conditions. As mentioned, substance abuse is a disorder. So, step one is to avoid jumping to conclusions or hitting the panic button. Yes, it’s disturbing to experience angry outbursts, unexplained weight loss, or loss of memory. Such occurrences cannot be ignored but almost certainly can be explained. A good starting point for improved awareness and understanding? Contact a mental health professional to talk about depression.
Depression is Treatable
We have worked with many people who were dealing with depression but didn’t realize it. If you think this might be happening to you, we can help.
The best way to start feeling better — whatever the cause — is to ask for help. With that in mind, we invite you to reach out and connect. Let’s schedule you for a safe and confidential consultation. We can talk about what you’re feeling. We can also begin a conversation about depression treatment and possible underlying causes. We’re here to help you live the life you want and deserve.