In a previous post, we looked at the differences between mild and moderate depression. Many people start with mild depression that gradually progresses to moderate depression because it’s not treated. If you’re wondering if you might have the signs of depression, ask yourself the following questions:
Are you eating either noticeably more or noticeably less than you usually do?
Weight gain and weight loss aren’t necessarily related to depression, but if you’ve noticed a change in appetite in either direction in conjunction with other symptoms, there’s a good chance it is, in fact, related.
Are you drinking more, or taking more of any substance, than you have in the past?
People showing the signs of depression often feel the need to turn to alcohol or other substances to distract them from their feelings.
Do you find yourself napping more often than you usually do?
One of the most common physical signs of depression is that it wears you out. You can sleep much more often than normal and still feel tired.
Are you canceling plans or turning down offers to make plans more than you usually do?
Depression sufferers often feel that they can only seem to breathe a sigh of relief when they cancel plans as opposed to when they make them, even with people they genuinely love and enjoy.
Do you feel addicted to screen time that lets you “zone out,” like watching TV or scrolling social media?
Similarly to turning to food or other substances to help them cope with their feelings, many depression sufferers feel addicted to distracting themselves from their feelings with mind-numbing screen activities. This can create a vicious cycle in which they end up comparing their lives to what they see on social media, which only makes the negative feelings worse.
Are you skipping parts of your routine?
This is a very small, subtle sign, but combined with other behaviors in these questions, it might be indicative of depression. People with depression often report that they just don’t have the energy to do even small things, like normal bedtime routines, for instance (brushing teeth, skin care, etc).
If these symptoms sound like you, and you’ve been experiencing them for at least two consecutive weeks, then you might have mild, or even moderate, depression. If your depression is mild, then there are things you can try on your own to treat it that you might find success with. Some of these things include the normal self-care recommendations, like eating a balanced diet, getting enough exercise, and practicing some form of meditation/prayer (depending on your preference). A few additional tips include:
- Try to get enough, but not too much, sleep. As mentioned above, depression can often leave people feeling very tired. Getting too much sleep can leave you feeling as worn out as not getting enough sleep, though. Try getting a good night’s rest (7 or 8 hours) and taking a brief nap during the day (around 20-30 minutes, ideally). It can be hard to resist the urge to keep sleeping, but getting too much sleep can have a depressive effect on your mood just like not enough sleep.
- Increase your intake of strategic mood-boosting foods. Addison Johnson points out that while there is no magical “depression diet” that will cure depression, there are certain foods that are known to boost mood. You can read Johnson’s article for more information on why the foods he recommends are useful in regulating your mood; the categories he mentions are foods rich in antioxidants (berries, nuts, seeds, broccoli, spinach, and sweet potatoes), carbohydrates (fruits and veggies provide complex carbs, which are better for you than simple carbs), and protein-rich foods (like poultry, beans, and soy products).
- Force yourself to socialize a bit more. This is a good one to take slow: maybe start with an achievable-sounding goal, like one social activity every two weeks. Even though it feels incredibly hard when you’re depressed, getting to social activity is often most of the battle. Once you’re actually out at an activity, there’s a good chance you’ll feel a mood boost, as long as you’re with people you genuinely enjoy. If your depression is farther along than mild, then you might find that this one feels virtually impossible without the aid of therapy, medication, or both.
Most importantly, don’t keep your struggle to yourself.
Depression is already an isolating force; it makes you feel as if you’re alone and unloved in the world. Don’t help it along by not telling anyone about your feelings. Being honest with people who love you will help them understand why it might seem like you’re withdrawing. If they really love you and are empathetic, unselfish people, then they will understand and not take your behavior as a personal insult. If you think or know that your loved ones don’t know a lot about depression, you could even give them some reading about it so that they can understand how your brain chemistry is affecting your life.
If you don’t have anyone that you feel like you can talk to, then see a therapist.
It’s important for you to talk to someone, and a therapist will be professionally trained to help you, unlike your friends and family, who might love and support you but not know exactly how to help you. Therapy is a good idea for sufferers of mild and moderate depression alike, and a therapist can give you an idea of whether medication would be an appropriate step for you.
Depression sufferers often feel like there’s nothing they can do to help themselves feel better. If you feel this way and would like to talk to someone about making a change, you can call us at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult to learn more about how working with one of our therapists can help you improve your life.