6 Common Symptoms of Depression and Some Helpful Solutions to Consider
Depression is characterized by its many symptoms which cause significant impairment in daily activities. I have personally experienced many of the symptoms of depression. This is a list of a few symptoms and some solutions I have found helpful in treating them.
1. Loss of interest in activities.
Depression can be a difficult illness to face on its own, but one of the symptoms you might not even realize is happening to you is loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. For me, it was a gradual loss of interest in music. I once had a passion for music: listening, playing and singing every day. But once I had a depressive episode, it was hard to even hear a song without immediately turning it off due to the emotional trigger. It doesn’t have to be just loss of interest in music though — it can be anything.
My Solution: Losing interest in activities you enjoy can be something very difficult to combat when you have depression. For me, I lost interest in music and a few other activities I once enjoyed. I found that turning on the radio to a low volume during car rides was helpful to ease myself back into listening to music. It didn’t seem quite as triggering and I didn’t have to focus on just listening to the music.
Another thing you can do to get some enjoyment out of your week or even your month is subscribe to a mental health box like BuddyBox or Caring Crate. They come each month for a small fee, and are filled with unique items aimed toward self-care. Some of the items could include adult coloring books, snacks and dry shampoo (if you don’t have the energy to shower every day), journals, teas and so much more. I recommend these for a little boost each month to make you feel good, and for something to look forward to when you just aren’t feeling your best.
When you are depressed, it can be extremely difficult to stay active. I personally had a very hard time not isolating myself. I would sit in my room day in and day out, usually sleeping most of the day away, ignoring texts and calls from family and friends. Humans thrive on social interaction, so it is so important, even when we are feeling down, to try and find support.
My Solution: What helped me the most during my periods of isolation was support from my family and friends. It took me a long time to learn how to best communicate to my friends and family that I needed their support, and how they should give it to me. Sometimes, I really did not want to interact with anyone, and sometimes I needed a little extra push. It’s hard to find a balance when you are in a depressive episode. Letting your friends and family know they should reach out to you and include you in activities whenever possible can help you to be less isolated and to be more active in the long run.
Another resource for those who just don’t want to interact with their family and friends, or who don’t have family and friends available, are local groups like NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). Most cities have a local chapter, and if yours does not, there may be another group similar to NAMI nearby. NAMI offers services such as support groups for people with mental illnesses, anonymous support if you want to call and chat with someone when you are struggling or have questions, educational groups and so much more.
A symptom I really struggle with when I am depressed is irritability. This symptom can sometimes be explosive, and hard to deal with, especially when you are communicating with family and friends who are closest to you. There are many ways you can deal with irritability. I will admit that this is the most frustrating symptom of depression I have had to learn to cope with throughout the years, but I have learned some coping mechanisms to try and handle it, especially when there are other people involved.
My Solution: Try your best to calm yourself down first, before communicating with someone else. How I have successfully done this is by leaving the room and taking a few deep breaths. If you are in a situation alone and you are feeling particularly irritable, this technique can work as well. Taking deep breaths, especially from the diaphragm is helpful. Mindful breathing techniques work if they are done correctly.
One mistake I have made with my irritability is sending texts when it escalates into anger. Always step away and put your phone in a safe place until you are calm. If you are irritable and it is involving a situation with a loved one, you may feel the need to settle the situation immediately, but that is not always the best option. This may only escalate things. For me, it has always been best to back off and take a break and come back to the conversation a little bit later.
One last solution I have used to combat my irritability is distraction. Something you could use to distract yourself is listening to music or possibly coloring in an adult coloring book if that is something that interests you.
Insomnia is something that is extremely difficult and frustrating to deal with, especially when you have depression. I have spent months of sleepless nights, tossing and turning for hours, thoughts racing, desperately wanting to sleep but unable to.
My Solution: There are a lot of ways I have tried to overcome my sleep issues over the years, but only a few have helped. One relaxing technique I have used is diffusing essential oils. Essential oils can also be used topically. Lavender oil can be used in a diffuser and is very relaxing by itself or in combination with orange oil for a deeper sleep. It may or may not put you to sleep, but will definitely be relaxing. My favorite oil is called Clary-Sage. This is best used rubbed into your skin to relax any tense muscles, which may also come as a result of insomnia. It also has an extremely relaxing effect. Put this oil on your stomach, neck or back and instantly feel relief. This is great for anxiety at night when you are trying to sleep, or any time of day. It can also be used in a diffuser.
Mindful breathing exercises through the diaphragm are extremely relaxing and many relaxing techniques can be found on YouTube, and if they are practiced well, they can even induce sleep.
Something that goes along with mindful-breathing is guided meditation. There are many guided meditation videos online, and guided meditation apps that are free on the app store and Google play. These can be very relaxing and can help quiet the mind.
I personally have started using a small dose of Benadryl to help me sleep at night (when prescription sleep meds and melatonin did not work) at my doctor’s recommendation, and it has worked wonders for getting me back into a sleep schedule. Always ask your doctor first before starting any medication. Of course, this may not be the best option for everyone.
5. Loss of appetite or overeating.
When you are depressed, one of the symptoms will more than likely be eating more than usual or eating much less often. In my case, I eat for comfort, and the foods I reach for are often sugary or high in fat, which causes weight gain. On the other hand, some people unintentionally avoid food due to stress or discomfort and this can cause weight loss.
My Solution: One of the last things you are thinking about when you are depressed is how to control your appetite. That said, I have found that there is no quick fix for this symptom. You really do need to find treatment for your overall mental health first, and once you are feeling better is when you can focus on your eating habits. However, there are a few things you can do in the meantime.
You can find other forms of comfort besides food. Drink some hot tea instead of that comfort food you were going to reach for. Try utilizing a weighted blanket (you can find these on Amazon). Weighted blankets for adults usually weigh around 18 pounds or so and are very comforting. Take a hot bath if you have access to one.
6. Suicidal thoughts.
Suicidal thoughts are a serious and rather common symptom of depression. When I experienced my first suicidal thoughts, I was in college and it was quite a shock to me. These thoughts were fleeting, and they would come and go at first. I didn’t have any intention, but I often woke up not wanting to be alive. It was a terrifying experience, and when you recognize this in yourself, it is so imperative to reach out for support.
My Solution: Suicidal ideation is a very serious subject. I am not here to give any professional advice, but I have dealt with this first hand. There are so many resources out there available to you when you are struggling, and it’s important that you know what they are and how to use them.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to speak to someone anonymously, without judgment 24 hours a day. Call or chat online to someone anonymously for free at 1-800-273-8255
If you are not someone who is comfortable with chatting on the phone, the Crisis Text Line might be a better fit for you. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, this is a safe, anonymous resource that you can text 24 hours a day. Just text HOME to 741741.
There are other resources available as well. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can go to the Emergency Room. Just tell them you are experiencing suicidal thoughts. You will not be judged, and you will be safe there.
Call a friend, family member or other support. If you are having suicidal thoughts, it is often best to talk about it and get out of your own head. Isolating yourself in these situations can be the worst thing for you.
Finally, as I stated above, local support group chapters such as NAMI are available for you to call if you need someone to talk to anonymously, without judgment.
These are just a few of the symptoms of depression, and not all of the solutions I have listed will work for each person, but they have worked well for me. I hope these can be helpful for you as well.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Unsplash photo via Kyle Broad