Depression can slowly start affecting all aspects of your life. Here are some signs it’s time to explore treatments for depression.
We all have off days sometimes — those occasional days when we’re sad, irritable, or feel too tired for our daily walk. Everyone has them.
But when feeling down becomes the norm, it could be a sign of depression.
Depression occurs in roughly
“Depression doesn’t always present as a freight train. Sometimes it sneaks up on us gradually,” explains Christina Steinorth-Powell, licensed psychotherapist.
No matter how fast depression comes on, it’s treatable.
Once you recognize the signs, you can find the right support to help you feel better. While depression can look different from person to person, here are 17 common signs that it may be time to seek help for depression:
It’s natural to feel sad from time to time. But feeling despondent or hopeless almost every day for
“People with depression frequently describe being ‘emotionally flatlined,’” says James Greenblatt, psychiatrist. “One patient described it [as] ‘my life used to be in high-res technicolor, but now I’m stuck wandering through dull black-and-white.’”
It’s motivating and heart-warming to be excited about future career advancements, plans to fix up a home, or starting a family. But now, those dreams might feel too difficult to achieve. A snowball of negative thoughts might focus on the potential for failure, instead of excitement.
We all have things we don’t want to do and procrastinate on starting. But depression often strips away the joy around hobbies we love. For example, maybe you haven’t cracked open a book in months, even though reading used to be something you loved.
“Activities that used to bring joy [and] topics that used to inspire passion or motivation have been drained of all meaning and positive impact [by depression],” Greenblatt says.
Some days might require an unusual amount of energy just to get out of bed and do basic things, like getting dressed, going to work, or leaving the house.
As a result, activities that require more energy — like working out, socializing, or doing the dishes — can feel impossible.
It’s common for people with depression to often cancel or avoid social outings. Things that used to sound fun, like going out to dinner, don’t sound fun now, provoke anxiety, or might bring on feelings of inadequacy or embarrassment.
“People may be less inclined to go to family get-togethers they used to enjoy,” says Steinorth-Powell. And, she continues, sometimes people have the “feeling that ‘no one will miss me anyway,’” making it easier to justify canceling.
Since depression can reduce your energy and motivation, you might notice that it’s taking more effort to keep your home, car, or office clean. It may even seem too overwhelming to start cleaning, or tasks might go unfinished.
“Undiagnosed depression may make us less productive overall,” says Steinorth-Powell.
Even if you kept an immaculate home before depression, the sink might be full of dirty dishes now, she says.
Depression can make staying focused or motivated at work difficult, affecting the amount of time it takes you to do projects or your ability to care about the quality of your work.
Having deadlines pile up or getting negative feedback on tasks can make working while depressed extremely stressful.
“A formerly high-achieving high school student may start to slip in terms of his academic performance, not because he’s lost proficiency but rather because he’s struggling with apathy and simply does not have the emotional energy to care about grades as much as he used to,” explains Greenblatt.
It’s not uncommon to feel irritable, angry, or “on edge” when you’re depressed.
Aggression is a particularly common symptom of depression in men and children. This mix of feeling low and angry is sometimes called agitated depression.
“Undiagnosed depression can have a huge impact on our relationships,” says Steinorth-Powell. “It can make us irritable, sad, short-tempered, or shut down. Little things we used to let slide in relationships can become huge annoyances and even dealbreakers.”
The impact on relationships goes both ways. You might find you have less patience for your partner’s behavior, however minor or typically unoffensive. Or friends express disappointment in your friendship because you keep canceling plans.
Many studies have shown that depression can lower your desire to be sexually intimate, which can exacerbate relationship issues with a partner.
Treatment can often help reverse this effect and lead you to feel excited about sex again.
It can feel overwhelming to have work piling up, relationship stress, and daily tasks going unfinished. You might start to feel guilt and self-loathing because you can’t seem to catch up or manage symptoms on your own.
Support is out there. Treating depression isn’t something anyone needs to handle on their own.
Depression can manifest as physical symptoms, too. An increase in headaches, body tension, and stomachaches are common for people living with depression, says Laura Rippeon, licensed clinical social worker.
On the flip side, some people find it difficult to fall or stay asleep, even when they’re tired.
Depression often affects your appetite in one way or another.
Some people feel like they’re constantly hungry and need to eat all the time, leading to weight gain. Other people might feel like they’re too depressed to eat or lack the motivation to make a meal. You might even feel like food has no flavor or the idea of eating just isn’t appealing anymore.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) says that depression can lead to weight gain or loss of more than 5% of your body weight in a month.
Not being able to find the energy or forgetting to eat, shower, brush your teeth, or change into clean clothes is a sign it’s time to treat depression.
One of the most serious symptoms of depression is thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Even if you are not actively planning to hurt yourself or your thoughts are fleeting, you deserve support.
Some people don’t make real plans, but they think about death a lot. Others, because they don’t really feel like living, engage in riskier, harmful behaviors because they don’t care if it hurts them. These are signs it’s time to seek help immediately.
If symptoms of depression are affecting your life, you’re not alone. Support and treatments are out there for you.
If you’re not sure if your symptoms mean you have depression, you can start by talking to a doctor. They’ll know how to screen you for depression and, if relevant, refer you to a mental health professional.
You can also look for a therapist or psychiatrist online or on our Find a Therapist resource page.