Depression Signs & Symptoms

Understanding Depression

Learn About Depression

Depression is a disorder characterized by sad moods and the relative inability to experience pleasure in life. It can be healthy to be sad from time to time, such as during the end of a romantic relationship or following the death of a loved one, and in some cases, it can be healthy to be sad for a long time. However, depression is not just a case of the blues- it is a serious mental illness. Feeling disconnected is a common symptom of depression, and often people with depression can feel numb even to joyful or pleasurable life events.

This numbness can sometimes lead people to use substances as a misguided attempt to feel any kind of pleasure. While the use of drugs may provide short-term pleasure due to both a chemical high and the temporary escape from emotional pain, when a person continues to use substances for a long period of time, he or she is at risk for developing an addiction and can end up worse off than before he or she began using substances.

In addition to sad mood, a loss of pleasure, and numbness, people who have depression can struggle with the loss of energy and interest in life, as well as feelings of hopelessness. Such feelings can cause people who battle depression to feel as though life will always be dreary and gray. Although hopelessness is a common symptom of depression, the truth is that there is still hope for a better future. There are treatment options that can help you or your loved one live a fuller, more vibrant life free of the symptoms of depression and the grips of addiction.

Statistics

Depression Statistics

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. Nearly 7% of American adults, or 16 million people, struggle with it in any given year. Additionally, it has been founds that women are more than one and a half times more likely than men to be diagnosed with depression. Most common among 18- to 25-year-olds, the prevalence of depression among people decreases as people age.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Depression

Researchers and mental health clinicians agree that there is no one cause for depression. Instead, depression is more likely the result of a complex interplay of genetics and environmental factors. In fact, some of the most promising research is occurring in the field of epigenetics, which studies how environmental triggers can “switch on” or “switch off” certain genes. Although some people who have genetic or environmental vulnerabilities to depression never develop the disorder, the following is a discussion of some common risk factors that can lead an individual to develop depression:

Genetic: Similar to many other mental illnesses, depression can run in one’s family. Children of parents who struggle with depression are three times more likely to suffer from depression than children who do not have a parent who contends with depression.

Environmental: Environmental stressors can play a role in whether or not depression manifests in a person’s life. People who have experienced abuse, trauma, neglect, assault, or other violence are more likely to develop depression. Similarly, people who experience significant stress are also at greater risk of experiencing symptoms of depression. Stressors like unemployment, poverty, family strain, poor social network, major life transitions, injury, or the death of a loved one can also increase a person’s chances of developing depression.

Risk Factors:

  • Experiencing a life-altering injury
  • Experiencing the death of loved one
  • Going through a major life transition
  • Being unemployed
  • Being homeless
  • Having a history of abuse, neglect, or parental absence
  • Having a family history of mental illness or substance use
  • Having a personal history of other mental illness or substance use
  • Experiencing trauma
Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression is a pervasive disorder that can wholly affect a person’s ability to function. The signs and symptoms of depression vary somewhat from person to person depending on personality, personal history, environmental factors, and other variables. The following is a list of common signs and symptoms of depression:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Slowed or agitated movements
  • Lack of participation in life events
  • Avoiding hobbies or activities one used to enjoy
  • Self-harm
  • Tearfulness

Physical symptoms:

  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Lethargy, fatigue, or feeling tired even after sleeping a full night
  • Changes in weight
  • Changes in appetite
  • Low sex drive
  • Unexplained pain
  • Headaches

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Slowed thought processes
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Poor memory
  • Thoughts of death
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Difficulty thinking clearly, or feeling as though one is mentally “in a fog”

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Withdrawal from relationships
  • Sad mood nearly every day
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Loss of pleasure in daily life
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Excessive feelings of guilt
Effects

Effects of Depression

Depression can cause a bevy of negative effects, and these negative effects range in severity depending on each individual person’s experience with the disorder. If left untreated, people who are depressed can suffer from the following consequences:

  • Developing a substance abuse problem, possibly leading to addiction
  • Strained or broken relationships
  • Job loss
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Homelessness
  • Poor work performance
  • Social isolation
  • Physical problems, including struggles with weight
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Development of additional mental health concerns
  • Onset of self-harming behaviors
Co-Occurring Disorders

Depression and Co-Occurring Disorders

Unfortunately, people with depression can also struggle with a number of co-occurring disorders. They may sometimes attempt to mitigate the numbing effects of depression with substances, or they may use substances to try and dull the painful experience of depression. In addition to a substance use disorder, people with depression sometimes also meet criteria for the following disorders:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Additional substance use disorders
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