There’s a lot more to depression than feeling really, really sad. Sneaky symptoms like insomnia and grouchiness creep in so gradually that many people don’t even realize they’re depressed. Take a look at the symptoms below: They’re not exclusive to depression, but if you can check off several on the list, it might be time to talk to your doctor. Depression is very treatable.
EVERYTHING IS HARD
“Executive function” is the technical term for the tiny emperor that lives in your brain, kicking in when you can’t go on automatic and have to concentrate or make a decision. Depression can cause executive dysfunction, making it very hard to convince yourself to sort the laundry, return a phone call, finish a project, or wash the dishes. If these small tasks are piling up, don’t blame yourself—but pay attention.
EVERYTHING IS BORING
Depression is like emotional bleach. It can suck the color and life out of everything, from conversations with friends to your favorite TV show. Anhedonia, the inability to feel pleasure, is a very common symptom that makes it hard to focus or care about the things that used to bring you alive.
EVERYONE IS ANNOYING
Does everybody and everything push your buttons these days? Has your fuse gotten shorter? Irritability is a classic but less well-known symptom that, like anhedonia, can cause people to push their now-aggravating loved ones away and become isolated. Some studies have found that depression with irritability may be a separate, more intense subtype of the illness.
YOUR CLOTHES DON’T FIT LIKE THEY USED TO
Depression will do a number on your relationship with your body and food. Anhedonia and a decreased appetite may make food less appealing, while executive dysfunction can make it hard to shop or prepare meals. Some people with depression seek solace in food, using the stress-inhibiting powers associated with carbs and fats to feel better for a short time. Illnesses and medical issues that cause depression can also cause weight gain and loss.
YOUR HAIR IS GREASY
When anhedonia, executive dysfunction, and isolation combine, they create … a person who doesn’t feel like taking a shower. Letting yourself temporarily ignore the demands of an overly clean culture when your mood is stable can be incredibly freeing. Wearing dirty clothes for four days because you’re too numb to move is not.
YOU CAN’T SLEEP … OR STOP SLEEPING
Sleep disturbance is both a sign and a possible cause of depression. Some depressed people stop being able to sleep, and when we don’t sleep, our mental state begins to fray. Depression can also cause intense fatigue that doesn’t go away even after you’ve had a good night’s rest. Take a look at your sleep habits and energy level. Have they changed for reasons you don’t understand?
The relationship between depression and pain is incredibly complicated. People who live with chronic daily pain are at a high risk for becoming depressed. It hurts to hurt and to feel limited or trapped by pain. But depression can also increase our brain’s sensitivity to pain, making us more likely to just feel bad all over. Antidepressant medications have been shown to help decrease pain, and treating pain can help reduce depression.