Over ten years ago, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder – Recurrent, which means that I’ve had multiple episodes of depression. It’s important for me to learn to recognize the symptoms of an episode quickly, because the faster it’s treated, the sooner it goes into remission.
According to psychiatry.org,
Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression.
Given these symptoms, it’s critical for me to know my red flags – my warning signs – that an episode might be lurking. These are my indicators prior to actual depression symptoms – they tell me it might be coming.
Here are some I’ve noticed.
- Listening to music loudly –
- in an effort to drown out my negative or ruminating thoughts.
- Desire to be alone, or in the dark.
- Not wanting to go to my regularly scheduled activities – anhedonia.
- Saying “I’m sorry” a lot.
- Difficulty concentrating when reading a book or even watching a t.v. show.
- Wanting to stay in bed, even if I’m not tired.
- Feelings of self-pity.
- Crying – maybe. Sometimes I can’t cry, which is also a red flag for me.
When I see several of these characteristics, or if someone close to me notices, it’s time for me to contact my psych doc and let him know that I might be headed into a depressive episode.
[Side note: even though I know these things about myself, I am always surprised. You’d think that after ten years, I wouldn’t be shocked to discover the journey back into depression. I guess it’s a good thing – I don’t ever want to get used to it. I need to accept it, and make every effort to be mentally healthy, but I don’t want to be resigned to a life of depression.]
Over the 10+ years that I’ve battled depression, I’ve gotten better at seeing these things quickly, which means we can modify my treatment and get me the help I need so that the episode doesn’t deepen. Maybe that means adjusting my meds. Maybe it’s increasing my therapy sessions. Maybe it’s simply monitoring them, being self-aware.
It’s a call to pay attention.