7 Warning signs of a depressive episode
Depression can affect anyone at any time. It doesn’t discriminate and often leaves its sufferers confused, angry, and isolated. Sometimes our lives look ideal on paper, but this can be the exact opposite of what we’re feeling on the inside, and the conflict can lead to feelings of guilt and shame. But depression is not your fault and you are not alone.
Senior counsellor Emily Fieldhouse, experienced in talking therapy for depression,explains, “While it is normal for all of us to experience low mood from time to time, some of us will experience a depressive episode in our lives. Feelings of hopelessness, emptiness, anger or fatigue, trouble sleeping, changed eating habits, difficulty in concentrating or thoughts of self-harm or suicide all point towards a depressive episode. If these symptoms last for more than two weeks and are affecting you most days, then it may be time to visit your GP.”
Whilst these signs aren’t a definitive checklist of symptoms of depression, it is helpful to know the common warning signs of a depressive episode. These can help you identify when your emotional wellbeing may have become unbalanced.
1. Tiredness and fatigue
When struggling with a depressive episode, you might find yourself constantly thinking of when you can next crawl under the duvet. This frequent need to sleep, coupled with sleep that is no longer refreshing can leave you feeling groggy, distracted, forgetful and in a constant daze.
2. Lack of motivation
Many of us experience those off days when we simply can’t find the motivation to do the task at hand. But, when this lack of motivation becomes a permanent state, it could be a sign that something else is at work here.
A sudden change in irritability could be a cause for concern: taking yourself by surprise with snapping at close friends and family, having little or no patience and flying into a rage when you usually can check in with your temper before you lose control are all typical signs.
Linked to increased irritability, you may find yourself getting tearful, defensive and emotional at the slightest interaction.
5. Concentration problems
Coupled with your constant need to sleep, lack of motivation and irritability, concentrating, particularly at work or on a difficult task may become increasingly tough when you have depression.
6. Physical aches and pains
You might start to notice that your body generally aches and you can’t put your finger on an accident or incident that has led to this ache.
7. Changes in appetite
A sudden change in appetite is common in individuals with depression, and this can often lead to self-esteem worries and increased anxiety.
Emily explains that whilst medication and talk therapies may be prescribed to help with your depression, such as antidepressants and/or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), there are a few things you can do at home.
“Basic self-care such as getting enough sleep (7-9 hours a night) can help to maintain energy levels and mental functioning. A lack of sleep has been shown to affect thinking and mood. Although too little sleep can be detrimental, so can too much sleep, so keep to a routine where possible.
“It can be tempting to either go without food or indulge in sugary snacks when you have depression. However, both can cause sugar spikes or drops which cause mood to drop further, or sometimes, trigger anxiety. Eating a healthy diet of vegetables, fruits and whole grains with plenty of water to keep hydrated is beneficial.”
The link between positive mental wellbeing and exercise has been well documented. In 2018, a year-long study by England Athletics revealed that of 13,000 people, 74% experienced an improvement in their mental health and wellbeing from running.
Emily says, “Exercising for 20 minutes a day at a moderate pace (enough to make you breathless) has also been shown to increasemood levels, so taking a walk and getting some fresh air can give you an almost instant lift.”
Support for depression
If you think you may have depression, try and make an appointment with your GP. Although the first step can be incredibly frightening, it is the first step on your recovery journey. If you aren’t quite ready to speak to your GP, you can speak to a Samaritan on 116 123 open 24/7, or speak to a trained volunteer on SANEline 0300 304 7000 between 4pm and 10pm every day.
Written by Katie from Counselling Directory, an online, mental health resource offering members of the public a direct link to registered counsellors and essential mental health support services. For more information on depression, visit their dedicated depression support page.