While all people have experienced sadness, not all of them have experienced depression. In fact, those who have never been depressed, it’s likely that they don’t fully understand what it’s like having to live with such a complex mental condition like this. And, in some cases, people may be struggling with depression and not even know it.
Some may ask themselves, “do I have depression?” or they may be wondering if their loved ones are struggling with this complicated illness. This is where our depression self-test can help determine if it’s more than sadness that individuals are experiencing.
Depression can be subtle for some people who struggle. It can affect not only people’s moods, but also their ability to think, feel, and function. It does much more than impact the way a person feels and thinks.
Depression also has the potential to:
Depression can affect a person’s ability to function in various settings, including home, work, and social settings.
It can also cause such deep emotional pain, that it doesn’t just affect the person feeling depressed, but it can affect their close friends and family too.
Struggling with depression can make a person feel like they’re the only ones feeling this way. But, this mental condition is quite common actually. In fact, around 5% of adults worldwide struggle with depression.
It’s the leading cause of disability around the world and is a huge contributor to the worldwide burden of disease. Depression can also result in suicide if left untreated.¹
Depression Self Test
What is Depression?
Feeling sad every once in a while is normal, but when a person’s emotions like despair and hopelessness take over and won’t go away, they may possibly be struggling with depression. Depression is much more than being sad because of life’s setbacks and struggles. It changes how a person feels, thinks, and functions in their day-to-day activities. It interferes with their ability to:
Even trying to make it through one day to another can cause overwhelm for an individual struggling with depression.
Some individuals refer to depression as “feeling impending doom” or “living in a black hole.” Others describe it as feeling empty, lifeless, and apathetic. Men especially feel restless and angry, compared to females.
If left untreated, depression can become a severe health issue. But, it’s essential to keep in mind that feelings of hopelessness and helplessness are depression symptoms — not a person’s reality of their situation.
Regardless of how hopeless a person struggling with depression can feel, they can always feel better. By recognizing and understanding the various types and symptoms of depression, they can take the necessary steps to overcome depression and feel better.
To receive a depression diagnosis, individuals will need to meet DSM Criteria and be struggling with symptoms for a minimum of two weeks.²
Causes and Risk Factors of Depression
Depression frequently results from different factors combined instead of a single cause. For instance, if a person just lost their job, went through a divorce, or just received a serious medical condition diagnosis, the stress could cause them to start drinking more. This then could lead them to isolate themselves from their friends and family. The combination of these factors could then trigger depression.
Here are some examples of risk factors that may make individuals more susceptible to depression:
1. Loneliness and Isolation
2. Relationship or Marital Issues
While having a network of supportive and strong relationships can be imperative to healthy mental health, unhappy, troubled, or abusive relationships can actually cause the opposite effect. This can raise a person’s risk for depression.⁴
3. Recent Stressful Life Changes or Experiences
Major life experiences or changes, such as divorce, bereavement, financial problems, or unemployment can often cause overwhelming stress levels and increase a person’s risk for depression.
4. Chronic Pain or Illness
Dealing with unmanaged pain or receiving a diagnosis for a severe illness, such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer can trigger feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
5. Genetics or Family History
Since depression can be hereditary, it’s likely some individuals have a genetic susceptibility to this condition. But, there’s no single “depression” gene that has been identified, so to speak. And, just because a person has a close relative with depression, does not mean they’ll end up with it too. A person’s relationships, lifestyle choices, and coping skills have an impact just as much as genetics.
6. Drug or Alcohol Abuse
Substance misuse often co-occurs with depression.⁵ Many individuals use drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with difficult emotions or stress or self-medicating their moods. If an individual is already at risk, drug or alcohol abuse can push them over the edge. There’s also evidence that individuals who misuse opioids are at a higher risk for depression.
Whether an individual’s personality traits are due to life experiences or inherited from their parents, they can affect their risk of depression. For instance, a person may be at a higher risk for depression if they:
- Are highly self-critical
- Tend to worry excessively
- Suffer from low self-esteem
- Have a negative outlook on life
8. Early Childhood Abuse or Trauma
Early life stresses like childhood abuse, trauma, or bullying can make a person more vulnerable to various future health issues, including depression.⁶
Types of Depression
This condition comes in a variety of sizes, shapes, and forms. While it can be a little complicating trying to define the severity of a person’s depression (i.e. mild, moderate, major), knowing the type of depression a person has can help them manage their symptoms and seek the best treatment possible.
Some types of depression can include:
1. Mild or Moderate Depression
These two types of depression are the most common. Symptoms of mild depression, which are much more than just “feeling blue” can disrupt a person’s daily life and rob them of their motivation and joy. And, symptoms can become intensified in moderate depression, leading to a decline in self-esteem and confidence.
Dysthymia is a form of “low-grade”, chronic depression. It is mild and recurrent. The person will feel mildly depressed or moderately depressed but may have short periods of feeling “normal.”
Dysthymia symptoms aren’t as strong as major depression symptoms, but they can last for a long time (a minimum of two years). Certain individuals, on top of dysthymia, experience episodes of major depression as well. This combination of the two condtions is referred to as “double depression.”
Those who struggle with dysthymia may feel like they have always had depression Or, they may feel that their frequent low mood is just how they are.
3. Clinical or Major Depression
Major depression, also called Major Depressive Disorder, is not as common as mild or moderate depression. It’s marked by relentless, severe symptoms.
Major depression when left untreated usually lasts for around six months. Some individuals experience only one episode of major depression in their lifetime, but it can become a recurring disorder.
4. Atypical Depression
This is a subtype of major depressive disorder that has a certain symptom pattern. Symptoms can include increased appetite, weight gain, a heavy feeling in the legs and arms, and sensitivity to rejection. It does respond better to certain types of medications and therapies than others, therefore, being able to identify it can be helpful.
Individuals with atypical depression will experience a temporary lift in their mood in response to a positive event, such as being out with their friends or receiving good news.
5. Seasonal Affective Disorder
For certain individuals, winter’s reduced daylight hours can cause a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Depending on where they live, around 1% to 2% of people in a population are affected by SAD, particularly young individuals and women.⁷ SAD can make a person feel like a totally different person during the wintertime than they do during the summertime. During the winter, they can feel:
They may lose interest in activities or friends they normally love. SAD typically starts during the fall or winter as daytime gets shorter. SAD typically sticks around until spring when the brighter days start to last longer.
Bipolar is a type of depression that is also referred to as manic depression. But, manic depression is actually an outdated name.
Individuals with Bipolar Disorder can experience alternating depressive episodes with manic periods. During a depressive episode, symptoms individuals experience can be the same as with major depressive disorder. Individuals may feel a lack of energy, feelings of sadness, trouble concentrating, etc.
During a manic episode, the person may feel euphoric, “high” or elated. They may have trouble sleeping or abnormal sleeping patterns. They may be irritable, have racing thoughts and speech, and have high energy. Their self-esteem and confidence may be increased too. They may take risky, self-destructive behavior.
7. Depressive Psychosis
This type of depression can sometimes be part of major depression. If an individual receives a major depressive disorder diagnosis with psychotic features, this is what it means.
With Depressive Psychosis, a person may lose touch with reality for some time periods. This can involve delusions and hallucinations. With delusions, they’ll believe things that don’t make sense or are obviously not true. Hallucinations may cause a person to feel, smell, taste, see, or hear things that aren’t really there.
People with depression with psychosis can also experience physical symptoms, including struggling to sit still or slowed movements.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Being depressed and being unhappy are not the same thing. The term “depression” is often used loosely to describe how individuals feel after a breakup or after a bad work week. But, it’s much more complicated with major depressive disorder. There are certain symptoms that will determine if it’s really sadness, which all people experience in life at times, or depression.
Determining if unshakable, persistent dark feelings are due to depression can be the initial step toward recovery and healing. Below are some signs and symptoms of depression that could indicate it’s time to see a mental health professional.
1. Loss of Interest
Depression can take the enjoyment or pleasure out of things people love. Withdrawal from or loss of interest in activities that individuals once looked forward to — hobbies, sports, or going out with friends — is another indication of major depression.
Sex is another area those with depression often lose interest. Impotence and a decreased sex drive are symptoms of major depression.
2. Hopeless Outlook
Major depression can affect how individuals feel about life in general. Having a helpless or hopeless outlook on life is a common depression symptom. Other feelings individuals may feel include:
While anxiety isn’t typically caused by depression, the two disorders frequently occur together. Anxiety symptoms may include:
4. Changes in Weight and Appetite
Appetite and weight can fluctuate for individuals living with depression. Each person may experience this differently. Some individuals will gain weight or experience an increase in their appetite. Others will lose weight and will be hungry and have changes to appetite.
One way of knowing if dietary changes in an individual are related to depression is if the changes are intentional. If their dietary changes aren’t intentional, it could be that they’re due to depression.
5. Uncontrollable Outbursts
One minute the person is crying uncontrollably and the other they’re experiencing an outburst of anger. Nothing outside of them caused this change, but their emotions are like a roller coaster at any given time. Mood swings such as this can be due to depression.
6. Increased Sleep Issues and Fatigue
Part of the reason individuals may stop doing things they enjoy is that they’re feeling tired. Overwhelming fatigue or lack of energy often comes with depression. These two can often be the most debilitating depression symptoms. These symptoms also have the potential to lead to too much sleep.
Depression and insomnia are also linked. Each condition has the potential to make the other worse. The lack of restful, quality sleep can also cause anxiety.
7. Looking at Death
There’s a link between depression and suicide. More than 42,000 individuals died from suicide in 2013 in the U.S., according to the CDC.⁸
Individuals who die by suicide, often show symptoms initially. Often individuals will talk about it or will try an attempt at suicide before successfully ending their life. Any person who is aware of another person at immediate risk of suicide, self-harm, or potentially harming another person, should:
Treatment for Depression
There are various depression treatment approaches. Treatment may not be the same for all people. Doctors will take the individual’s personal situation into consideration and come up with a treatment plan that works best for them. Depending on their diagnosis, patients may be provided with one or a combination of the following types of treatment plans:
1. Food and Diet
Mental health can be affected by what a person eats. This is particularly true for those with an intolerance to gluten. Depression can actually be one symptom of gluten intolerance.
But, gluten is not the only food that could negatively affect mental health. Fortunately, there are foods that can improve symptoms, such as fish, fruit, vegetables, and olive oil.
2. Physical Activity
Depression can improve with exercise. This is due to several factors. The release of endorphins is one essential factor. Endorphins help to stimulate norepinephrine. This is a neurotransmitter that’s connected to mood.
Additionally, routine exercise helps promote better sleep. A lack of sleep can lead to depression.⁹
3. Inpatient Treatment
One of the quickest ways to provide patients with results is inpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment provides patients with an environment that helps lessen the factors that contribute to their depression while promoting recovery. There are licensed and trained professionals to help them throughout their entire stay at the inpatient rehab facility.
Medication may be necessary if the patient’s depression stems back to a hormonal imbalance. Antidepressants are typically the medication used and help improve the chemical balance in the brain, reinforcing it against stress. Medication generally takes several weeks before it takes effect and helps to subside or cease symptoms. Over time, patients will experience:
One common misconception is that antidepressants are addictive. However, as long as antidepressant use stays within the recommendations of the doctor, it isn’t addictive. Suddenly stopping some types of antidepressants can cause symptoms of withdrawal, therefore, doctors will adjust the dose carefully until the patient doesn’t require the medication any longer.
Those who face suicidal thoughts, have acted on them, or have attempted suicide may also require medication.
5. Cognitive Based Therapy (CBT)
CBT is frequently the best treatment for depression. It involves talking through the issue and has a high success rate. It’s often referred to as talk therapy. A professional provides the patient with insight and helps to eliminate false beliefs the patient has within their system.
It frequently takes weeks before a person experiences results, but CBT is highly effective in getting results.
If a person believes they have depression, while there aren’t any specific blood tests that can be taken for depression, there are various assessments that can help determine if the individual does indeed have depression such as a depressive disorder self-test.
Those who are concerned that they have depression or that what they’re experiencing is all in their head may want to consider a depression self-test and then speak with their doctor about their results. Depression self-quizzes aren’t an actual diagnosis, but they can help individuals determine if they need to speak with a doctor.
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