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10 Signs I’m Experiencing a Major Depressive Episode

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

Up until a couple of years ago, I thought that if you were depressed, it meant being sad all the time. Now, I know that if you have major depressive disorder (MDD), your depression comes in waves or depressive episodes. Like right now, I’m not experiencing one but I’m still depressed because it’s a chronic condition. It can be confusing, but below you’ll find out what it’s like (for me) to experience a depressive episode.

1. My anxiety manifests as anger.

I recently discovered that anxiety can manifest as anger, or in some cases, rage. Sometimes, it’s not apparent that I’m anxious, even to me, but I realize my “check engine light” is coming on when I snap at the kids or my husband. Other times, I see red and want to throw or kick something. Regardless, I now know that anxiety is most likely the culprit and I need to resolve whatever it is I’m feeling. When this happens repeatedly, I know a depressive episode could be on the horizon.

2. I overeat and binge.

When I’m upset, I purposely overeat or binge. Unfortunately, this is my go-to coping mechanism and not a very good one. I think that by overeating, I’ll forget whatever pain I’m experiencing, but the relief is only temporary (and the weight gain often is not). It takes a lot of strength for me to bypass this behavior and choose something healthier, something that will actually be helpful.

3. I sleep more.

Usually, I wake up from 5 to 6 a.m. and go to sleep between 9 and 10 p.m. If I’m adding a nap during the day or going to bed before 9 p.m., that usually means something is up. Sometimes I have to force myself to go to bed on time because I’ll want to stay up in the name of alone time. I know I’m headed for trouble when I’m in so much pain that I can’t stay awake any longer than necessary.

4. My temper is shorter.

I have two small children, so patience is critical for my mental health. But there are times when I lost it easily over seemingly innocuous things, such as the kids being too loud. See number five below.

5. Loud noises freak me out.

When I’m in the “danger zone” of a panic attack or depressive episode, loud and unexpected sounds (such as the kids dropping something) make me angry, scared and out of control. Going somewhere that’s usually loud is out of the question, too. I suspect that I have misophonia, a disorder in which certain sounds trigger emotional or physiological responses that some might perceive as unreasonable given the circumstance. But I already have enough diagnoses, so I haven’t checked into it.

6. I want to crawl into bed after I take the kids to school.

Sometimes I need a nap during the day, and that’s OK, but I try not to make it a habit anymore; it just reminds me of when I was super depressed before going to a psychiatric hospital. If I’m crawling into bed more than usual during the day — say more than once a week — I know to assess what’s going on.

7. I cry more.

This is pretty straightforward. I’m a crier anyway, but I start to cry like every day, then something’s up.

8. I don’t do my favorite activities and hobbies.

This is one of the most annoying parts of depression but a good barometer of what’s going on in my head. Typically, I like to write, sing, read, sew, etc., but when I’m depressed I watch more TV than usual and all my other hobbies fall to the wayside.

9. My anxiety is through the roof.

Also straightforward. When I’m anxious, there’s an uptick in my anxiety medication, and I tend to be very jumpy and short-tempered.

10. I stop wearing “real” clothes.

I’m starting to waver on this one. By real clothes, I mean a nice bra, jeans, a blouse, etc. — anything that’s not leggings, basically. But, we are in a pandemic and I just don’t see that many people, so I’ve been wearing more loungewear than normal. But usually, when I’m depressed, I’m in oversized sweats and my hair is dirty.

Recently, I learned that if you have experienced a depressive episode, you have a 50% chance of having another. If you’ve had two episodes, your chances increase to 80%. I’m not even going to tell you what it is for three bouts. It’s too depressing — get it?

I’m curious to know what you experience before a depressive episode. Please share in the comments.

Photo by Pringly on Unsplash

Originally published: June 22, 2021
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