Real-life Depression Symptoms
I think that one reason it took so long for my depression to be diagnosed is that depression symptoms lists suck. Seriously. I can look at them now and see why nothing clicked with me. Appetite problems? Nope. Sleeping problems? Nope. Suicidal thoughts? Nope. Loss of interest in things previously enjoyed? Well, when you’ve been depressed since childhood, that’s kind of hard to say.
And the lists leave a lot of real-life depression symptoms out. What about “don’t like to be around other people”? Or “read way too many romance novels/play too much Dungeons and Dragons.” And where was “wear dark clothes most of the time”? (Actually, if you live in a major city, wearing dark colors doesn’t necessarily mean you’re depressed. It just makes sense, since otherwise your clothes always look grimy).
Here’s one of the problems. Those lists are, more often than not, lifted right from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This is the big, thick book that doctors use to diagnose mental illness. As you can tell by its name, it’s pretty darn technical. And dry. But that’s really no surprise, since it’s written by doctors for the benefit of doctors and insurance companies.
I figured that I couldn’t be the only one who didn’t recognize my own depression in those dry, technical lists, so here is my partial list of real-life depression symptoms:
- Things just seem to be “off” somehow.
- You cry frequently for no apparent reason, and it’s not the good kind of crying you get from watching “The Notebook”.
- You look around your house at the end of the weekend and wonder why you didn’t get anything done, even though you weren’t busy.
- Everything is a monumental effort. It’s the mental equivalent of having the flu.
- You let little things that really shouldn’t be a problem slide for months, like registering your car. (Ask me how I know that you can get huge ticket from the nice state cop from this.)
- You’re very irritable. (Let’s face it, if everyone is irritating you, it’s probably you, not them).
- Your issues of Allure/GQ are piling up unread because you really couldn’t care less about your appearance. And if you’re not the Allure/GQ type, you’re not keeping up with your average hygiene routine - hair cut, waxing, plucking, trimming nose hair, etc. You don’t smell or anything, but just doing the shower/tooth brushing is about as much as you can handle.
- You constantly feel like something bad has happened, or that you’re worried about something, but there’s really nothing you can put your finger on.
- You can’t make a decision to save your life, even if it’s only to respond to “fries with that?”
- You’re anxious and worried all the time over things that normally don’t make you fret.
- Your feelings toward your spouse/significant other have changed. You may feel yourself withdrawing emotionally.
- Your concentration is shot and/or you’re forgetful.
- Your senses are dulled - nothing looks colorful, food doesn’t have much taste, etc.
I hope that this list has been somewhat helpful. Let me know what I left off - I’m interested in hearing other people’s symptoms.
Deborah Gray wrote about depression as a Patient Expert for HealthCentral. She lived with undiagnosed clinical depression, both major episodes and dysthymia, from childhood through young adulthood. She was finally diagnosed at age 27, and since that time, her depression has been successfully managed with medication and psychotherapy.