Am I Depressed? Causes, Symptoms & More

May 25, 2017
7 min read

Depression is a hot topic. It's all over the news and increasingly identified in pop culture under the heading of “mental health”. Although the topic is widespread, and depression has even been formally recognized as a disease by the World Health Organization (WHO), it is widely misunderstood to the point where many people may not even realize that they are depressed.

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Depression has many faces and symptoms

Am I depressed? Depression comes in many guises and we don’t always recognise it as depression.  In its pronounced form, overwhelming depression can bring with it isolation and despair. But for many, depression can be hard to diagnose and recognize because it doesn’t always show itself in an obvious way. However obvious or subtle, depression does indeed have tell-tale signs, when it’s quietly an underlying condition of our lives. Depression and dysthymia can affect anyone.png What is clinical depression?

If you have clinical depression, then you are severely depressed and it is an extremely debilitating condition.  It is an indicator that the serotonin chemical levels in the brain have become depleted.  It is a chemical imbalance and depression is the brain's natural function of shutting down the sufferer completely, whilst natural repair work and healing takes place.

Depression leaves us feeling barely able to get out of bed and if we do, a feeling of dragging our lifeless bodies around. We don’t want to see or speak to anyone and many describe it as the depths of despair and desolation. Clinical depression in its extreme feelings of despair and hopelessness can also evoke suicidal thoughts and even suicide attempts.  Many health professions class this as a mental health illness, whilst others argue that as the brain chemicals are actual fluids – it is a physical illness.

Could you be mildly depressed and not even know it?

How do you know if you live with this manageable condition of mild depression?  How can you be aware that you are depressed and to what degree? What if you're just a new father that is feeling the baby blues, feeling tired and down—is this not normal when tending for a new born?

There is a medical term for this type of depression — persistent depressive disorder — and it’s called Dysthymia: a chronic depression that is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

So, what are the signs and symptoms of Dysthymia?

Depression can manifest itself in different ways, but frequently shows the below symptoms in patients, including:

  • Lack of hobbies or interests in life, low energy levels, and low self esteem
  • Overeating or poor appetite
  • Excessive sleeping or difficulty sleeping, prolonged tiredness
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Feeling sad and let down in life
  • A sense of hopelessness with nothing to look forward to
  • Poor or little self-esteem and being self-critical
  • Irritability and a short fuse or quick tempered
  • Avoidance of social activities
  • Limited focus and concentration levels
  • Feeling of guilt about the past
  • Periods of feeling extremely down and tearful

It is the state of having a mild to moderate chronic depressed mood. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the symptoms are less severe than those of major depression, but the condition, being chronic, also tends to last longer than a major depressive episode.

How is dysthymia diagnosed?

For it to be diagnosed, this mood must persist for at least two years, or for one year in the case of an adolescent (who may report feelings of irritability rather than sadness). If symptoms meet the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder in this two-year period, both conditions will generally be diagnosed.

How does dysthymia differ from depression?

It is distinguished from major depression by its duration; in other words, it is a chronic form of depression. Symptoms may increase in severity to the level of those experienced in a major depressive episode. Generally, they will once again decrease in severity but will not resolve entirely. Symptoms may vary over the course of the illness, but two or more of the following symptoms will be present consistently in combination with a chronically sad or depressed mood: feelings of hopelessness and low expectancy, and lack of connections with family and friends.    

For many people living with this kind of depression, they are completely unaware that they even have this condition. For them, their lives are perfectly normal.  Feelings of excitement can be experienced as something unusual or even alien.

It is one of those depressions that is a fairly constant companion in life but does occasionally take a leave of absence. Until it’s explored or diagnosed one may not be aware of it.

How to identify the onset of dysthymia

It often begins with symptoms of traditional depression and is observed more frequently in certain parts of the population, i.e., when being raised within a family structure, where a parent is living with depression. This is indicative of a negative environment that can be experience as how normal life is perceived.

Who is susceptible to depression?

Persistent and chronic depression is common among the elderly and among people who are isolated, who have health problems, or who have another mental health condition. The condition appears to be more common in women than in men, and about 5% of the population suffers from it at least once.

Chronic depression may have a genetic element: having a relative with depression appears to increase the likelihood of developing depression. Parental loss or separation in childhood can be a risk factor for this condition, and brain chemistry might also increase a person’s chance of developing depression, major or mild.

Those with mild depression might simply hold negative beliefs about the world or oneself, or have a negative outlook on most aspects of life. They may not remember a time when they did not feel that way and be unaware that they are experiencing a mental health condition. A delay of up to 10 years before seeking treatment is not uncommon in those who experience mild depression. Thus, treatment may take longer. If untreated it also has the potential to progress to major depression.

What are the causes of depression?

Much of depression is caused by negative unhealthy stress which develops into anxiety, which if prolonged without treatment, results in depression. Another contributor to depression is a sudden trauma of a physical or psychological nature (major accident or extreme shock), where recuperation time can be lengthy. For more information on the causes of depression and treatment options, see this article.

RingMD Provider Elizabeth Van Rein.png To find out more about depression or seek treatment from Elizabeth Van Rein, you may contact her directly through her profile with the button below. She offers online therapy and counselling, and is an accredited therapist in counselling and psychotherapy. She is also a fully qualified hypnotherapist practising in medical hypnotherapy and hypno-analysis.

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