It can be difficult to watch someone struggle with their mental health, and it can be equally difficult to experience your own mental health struggles. Here are some common symptoms of depression to watch out for and ways to support yourself or a loved one who is struggling.
1. Difficulty getting out of bed
It’s perfectly normal to enjoy sleeping in or spending time in bed. However, if it has become difficult to find the motivation to get out of bed or get ready in the morning, this could be a sign of depression. Depression can make us feel fatigued and physically drained to the point where even small tasks, like getting up in the morning or showering, can feel exhausting or difficult to do.
2. Changes in sleeping habits
The physical and mental exhaustion that comes with depression can also affect our sleeping habits. Changes in sleep can show up in a number of ways. Sometimes this means sleeping throughout the day, using sleep as a way to pass the time or preferring sleep to other daily activities.
Other times, sleep changes can create bouts of insomnia, which can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. Missing out on quality, restful sleep can increase our anxiety levels and intensify feelings of distress. Sometimes, this creates a cycle where our anxious thoughts keep us awake and negatively impact our sleep, which then leads to more anxious thoughts.
3. Changes in appetite
Our appetite and eating habits can also be impacted by depression. Some people may experience an increased appetite, while others have less of an appetite or may not be hungry at all. If you are noticing changes in your sleep habits, like the ones listed above, you may also notice changes in the way you eat. This is because sleep helps regulate our hunger hormones, which help to keep us from over- or undereating.
4. Persistent irritability or mood swings
Depression can cause us to experience outbursts and mood swings. One minute we’re angry, the next we’re crying uncontrollably or shutting down. When someone is struggling with depression, changes in mood can switch in a moment’s notice. Sometimes these changes can be triggered by small or insignificant challenges, and other times they may come about completely unprovoked. If you notice a pattern of irritability or mood swings that last more than a few days, it may be linked to depression.
5. Self-harm and self-injury
When anxiety or depression create overwhelming emotions, some people may turn to self-harm in search of relief. Typically when people engage in self-harming behaviors, they do not do so in an attempt to commit suicide, but rather as a way to manage painful emotions.
Self-harm can take a variety of forms and vary from person to person. Some examples of self-harming behaviors include damaging the skin (cutting, burning, scratching or carving), hitting or punching oneself, piercing one’s skin with sharp objects, picking at or reopening existing wounds or banging one’s head or body into other surfaces (i.e. a wall or door).
Because self-harm is highly stigmatized, it can be hard for people who self-harm to get help. If you suspect someone may be self-harming, keep an eye out for signs like scarring, fresh wounds (cuts, burns, scratches, bruising) or hiding skin under long sleeves or pants (especially in hot weather).
6. Difficulty experiencing joy or connection
When we’re depressed, it can take all of the enjoyment out of the things we love and make it more difficult for us to connect to those closest to us. We may begin to lose interest in hobbies, friendships, schoolwork, social activities, sex or life in general. When we find that we are no longer enjoying or finding pleasure in the things we used to enjoy, this can be a sign of depression. In some cases people may also isolate themselves from close friends, family members or others who care about them, which can perpetuate the feelings of hopelessness and symptoms of depression.