Everyone will be sad, or hurt, or just feel down; it is practically a guarantee of life. What is not as clear is when is it just being sad over something, and when is it a condition that requires treatment?
There is no clear-cut answer on when to talk with someone but understanding what a diagnosable depression looks like might help to give you the information you need to decide if or when you need to talk to a doctor or counselor about your mood.
What Is Major Depressive Disorder?
When people talk about depression or being depressed in the medical sense, they are talking about what is called, “major depressive disorder.” It is the full name for the series of symptoms and problems that arise from a very low mood. Although mood is the key piece of this, depression is often called a full body illness.
It impacts every part of your life.
Depression symptoms take many forms, and no two people’s experiences are exactly alike. A person who’s suffering from this disorder may not seem sad to others. They may instead complain about how they just “can’t get moving,” or are feeling completely unmotivated to do just about anything. Even simple things like getting dressed in the morning or eating at mealtime become large obstacles in daily life. People around them, such as their friends and family, notice the change too. Often, they want to help, but just don’t know how.
Clinical depression is different from normal sadness.
When you lose a loved one as it usually completely consumes a person in their day-to-day living. It doesn’t stop after just a day or two; it will continue for weeks on end, interfering with the person’s work or school, their relationships with others, and their ability to just enjoy life and have fun.
Some people feel as if a huge hole of emptiness has opened inside when experiencing the hopelessness associated with this condition. In any given year, 7 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with this condition; women are 2 to 3 times more likely to be diagnosed than men.
Depression symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. It may even be that two people in the same family can be depressed but show some totally different symptoms. There are several symptoms that you possibly will see when someone is depressed.
They can include:
- Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Pessimism and hopelessness
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much
- Loss of interest in things once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won’t go away
- Digestive problems, like diarrhea or nausea that don’t get better, even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
One thing that is certain is that the symptoms must last beyond a couple days or a week. At that point it is still not considered a medical disorder.
For it to be a true depression, it must last continuously for a period of at least two weeks. It may not last all day, every day, but it will last an overwhelming majority of the time.
Thoughts of Suicide
Now, the main purpose of this article is to help guide you on when to seek help. Depression has a clear set of symptoms and a time frame in which it can be diagnosed. This can give you an idea of when you need to start looking to talk with your doctor or a counselor.
Not all the symptoms, however, are equal. If you start having thoughts of suicide, that is a clear sign that you should seek help as soon as possible.
Thinking about suicide may not mean you actually want to kill yourself.
Millions of people every year have thoughts of suicide, and for the vast majority, it is a passing thought and does not mean they need to be locked up or the police need to come and get them.
It still is a warning sign that something is very wrong and seeking help is important.
It is important to frame suicide as a warning sign, a giant red flag that this person needs help. It does not mean they are broken, need to be in a hospital or are crazy. Sometimes suicide is all the person can see as the way out of their problems.
Depression limits what people can see in their lives. If this sounds like what you are experiencing, then seek help immediately.
When It Is Intolerable
One of the last things to consider when it comes to seeking help for depression or any of its symptoms, is how is it for you? For some people, not sleeping may be tolerable, but for others it may be torture.
Ask yourself if your particular symptoms are tolerable? Does this feel like something you can manage for a couple of weeks? If the answer is no, then seek help as soon as you can, so that you can get help managing your symptoms. It is as simple as that.
When Others Offer Help
One last thing, since depression is a whole-body illness, is to consider it a sign to seek help when others are offering you their help. This one is a little more complicated of a sign to seek help, but think about this: How often do people talk to you about going to see a counselor or recommend a person you can talk to?
Odds are good this has never happened to you in regular conversation. It only happens when things are getting to the point where others are worried about you.
People in your life have a different experience of you than what goes on inside your head, and they may see things sooner or clearer than you will.
It may be a good idea to trust their wisdom and take that as a sign to go get help, and not wait.
Depression or major depressive disorder is a terrible medical condition that ruins the lives of millions every year.
It can leave you bed-ridden or up pacing the house crying to yourself. It goes well beyond the everyday blues that people may have, or reactions after a sad event, like the death of a loved one.
Depression is an illness that can be treated and if you or someone you love is showing symptoms of it, especially symptoms that have lasted for weeks, or if they or you are thinking about suicide as a way out, then seek help immediately. Your doctor or counselor can help you manage these symptoms and rid yourself of the disease of depression.