Is it Depression or is it Quarantine? 5 Ways to Tell the Difference

Where’s the line between the onset of an episode of depression and a normal reaction to what’s going on in the world right now? Dr. Misty Borst, Greenbrook TMS Maryland Medical Director, says that “There are plenty of times in our lives where we have a lot of unfortunate things or stressful things happening all at the same time. That makes us feel depressed, but it also can change our brain and how our brain works.” Here are five ways to tell the difference between simply reacting to the changes and disruptions we’ve all recently experienced versus a depressive episode that should be addressed by a medical professional.

Making sure that we’re getting regular exercise, adequate sleep, and nutritious food are the first things many of us look to when we feel that something is wrong. Oftentimes, getting back on a good sleep schedule or putting the phone down for some fresh air can be enough to pull us out of a funk. But if you’ve exhausted your list of mood boosters and find that you’re still struggling, what you’re dealing with may be more complex than just a temporary spell.

Transient depressive symptoms or feelings of stress, anger, or anxiety are commonplace reactions to what’s going on in the world right now. But when your feelings aren’t going away within two weeks or are interfering with your ability to sleep, work, and take care of your basic needs then it can be a cause for concern. Depression symptoms include:

  • Fatigue or decreased energy
  • Excessive sleep or difficulty with early-morning waking
  • Changes in weight from decreased or increased appetite
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
  • Depressed mood or feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

While having risk factors for depression doesn’t guarantee that someone will experience the onset of a depressive episode, it can make it more likely. These risk factors include:

  • Chronic medical illness, such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease
  • Social isolation
  • Disability
  • Personal or family history of depression
  • Stressful life events such as the loss of a spouse, divorce, or taking care of someone with chronic illness
  • Use of certain medications
  • Brain disease
  • Misuse of alcohol or drugs

Self-medicating takes many forms. It’s most commonly associated with excessive alcohol use or drug abuse, but self-medicating looks different for everyone. You may be working too much, sleeping too much, or eating too much in an effort to dampen negative feelings and find some comfort. Temporary overindulgence is usually harmless but once your habits are becoming unproductive or interfering with daily functioning, it’s time to consider the root cause.

Social distancing is important to help stop the spread of COVID-19, but only pertains to physical rather than emotional proximity. Social distancing doesn’t mean that you can’t talk on the phone, have a video chat, or text a friend. As we’re adjusting to this new normal, it’s okay to take some time to think about your feelings and regroup emotionally. But habitually retreating from friends and loved ones is a common depression symptom, whether due to lacking the energy it takes to put up a “happy face,” guilt over feeling low, or feeling that friends and family aren’t interested.

If these signs sound familiar to you, know that you’re not alone and that depression treatment is available. Reach out to a medical professional to find out what your next steps are, whether it’s antidepressant medication, talk therapy, or TMS therapy.

The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.

Always consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition.

If Covid-19 and social isolation are heightening your symptoms of depression, Greenbrook TMS therapy may be able to help. At Greenbrook, we specialize in TMS therapy — an FDA-cleared, non-invasive treatment for treatment-resistant depression and OCD without harmful side effects. See if TMS therapy is right for you by clicking here to take a brief assessment:

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