Most of us have seen the list of symptoms that indicate possible depression:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
Since I had had depression from an early age, I was used to being sad and anxious, so I didn't know that things could be different. I didn't eat or sleep too much or too little. I never (thankfully) had suicidal thoughts.
I think that these sterile symptoms lists didn't resonate with me, and so I didn't get diagnosed for years. I have compiled a short list of non-medical symptoms of depression that I've experienced in the hopes that it might help someone else move past the more conventional depression symptoms list and recognize their own depression:
- You've been very self-absorbed. (Of course, given the nature of self-absorption, you may not have realized it until just now.) But you realize that you haven't asked anyone else how things have been going for them in a while.
- You're irritable. Now, I know you may think that it's actually that everyone else is being irritating as opposed to you being irritable, but think about it – maybe one or two people are being irritating, but if it seems to be everyone, than chances are very good that it's you. Believe me, I've come to this realization a few times.
- Escapist activities are taking up a lot of your time. You're either watching TV or movies, playing video or computer games or reading your escapist choice of literature. I know that when I'm reading a lot of scifi/fantasy or spending a lot of time playing role-playing computer games, then something is up with my depression. It's a foolproof tip-off. If I'm reading non-fiction or playing a computer game like The Sims, I'm all right.
- Normal household chores are not getting done. Your plants are slowly dying, you only do dishes or laundry or grocery shopping when you get close to running out. Your list with all those little projects that we always have going on hasn't been touched in a long time.
- You're being negative and pessimistic in general. For instance, if you're trying to decide what movie to see with a friend or family member, you shoot down every suggestion of theirs, whereas normally you would be more open.
- Okay, here's a goofy one. I know that when I start singing along to music that I'm getting better, so obviously I don't do it when I'm depressed. I also listen to music a lot more when I'm not depressed.
Read Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) President Sue Bergeson's recent article on Music Therapy on our partner site BipolarConnect.com.