Minding Your Health: Depression Has Many Symptoms

  • May 3rd, 2017
Depression has many symptoms and signs. Some are obvious, but others can go unnoticed.

How do I Know if I am Depressed?

Roughly 20 million people in the U.S. suffer from depression. And those who cope with depression are more prone to illness because of the impact the disorder can have on the cardiovascular, digestive, immune and nervous systems. The World Health Organization estimates that depression will be the second highest medical cause of disability by the year 2030.

Most people think being sad or feeling dejected are the only indicators for depression, but depression has many symptoms and signs. Some are obvious, but others can go unnoticed, said Dr. John Burkhardt, a clinical health psychologist at University Medical Center.

Signs and symptoms of depression can include:

  • A persistent sad, anxious or empty mood.
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism.
  • Irritability.
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities.
  • Decreased energy or fatigue.
  • Moving or talking more slowly.
  • Feeling restless.
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Appetite and weight changes.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.
  • Aches and pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and that do not ease even with treatment.
If depression tends to make you overeat, controlling your eating will help you to feel better.

You do not need to have all of these symptoms to qualify for a major depressive disorder. If you notice that you are having some of these symptoms, talk with your primary care physician.

Causes of Depression

Causes of depression can be difficult to identify because, often, there is more than one source:

  • Genetics.
  • Environment or life events, such as living in poverty or dangerous situations or homelessness, school or work stress, loss of a loved one, divorce, financial stress and lack of access to social support.
  • Trauma, including experiencing or witnessing it.

 Ways to Cope with Depression

Being depressed can make you feel alone and helpless, but there is a lot you can do on your own to fight back, Burkhardt said. Changing your behavior and focusing on healthy lifestyle habits can help you cope with depression.

  • Get in a routine. Depression can remove the structure in your life. Setting an easy daily schedule can help.

    Something as simple as walking or riding a bike a few times a week can help.
  • Set goals. Start small and make your goal or goals something you can easily achieve. As you start to feel better, you can add more challenging goals.
  • Exercise boosts feel-good chemicals called endorphins, and regular exercise also seems to encourage the brain to rewire itself in positive ways. Something as simple as walking a few times a week can help.
  • Eat healthy. If depression tends to make you overeat, controlling your eating will help make you feel better. There is some evidence that foods with omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna, and folic acid, such as spinach and avocado, can help lessen the symptoms of depression.
  • Get enough sleep. Too little sleep can make depression worse.
  • Do something new. Sometimes when you’re depressed, you fall into a rut. Push yourself to do something different.

Resources

Burkhardt is an assistant professor in UA’s College of Community Health Sciences’ Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine and a practicing clinical health psychologist at University Medical Center.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.