Is It Depression or Just a Bad Week?

Sometimes depression isn’t obvious, and when you see someone every single day it can be hard to notice gradual changes in their behavior and mood. But these small changes can be signs that your spouse or family member is struggling with depression and needs help, even if they don’t want to reach out for it. Here are 8 signs that you should be on the lookout for:

Anhedonia is the inability to find pleasure in activities and can make life seem grey or flat. It’s a common symptom of depression and can affect every part of a person’s life, from finding enjoyment in their career to participating in hobbies and intimacy. You may notice that your loved one isn’t doing the things they used to love, or that they’re giving up pastimes that require effort and attention (exercise or reading) for more passive activities such as watching TV or mobile games.

“Cognitive impairment is a major symptom [of depression] and probably the most common,” according to Dr. William Sauvé, Regional Medical Director for Greenbrook TMS NeuroHealth Centers in Virginia. “Word finding, processing speed, maintaining attention, switching attention—all of these cognitive skills are diminished in those with depression.” We often brush off moments of forgetfulness or episodes of lost focus, but this is a common indicator that there might be something more going on. If it seems more than usual or out of the ordinary for your loved one, talk to them to see if there's anything they're struggling with or urge them to check in with a physician. 

If you’ve ever had an unsatisfying night’s sleep and spent the next day tired, irritable, and achy, you know how important sleep is for both physical and mental health. If your loved one is having trouble falling asleep, has restless sleep, is sleeping too much, or is tired all the time, it can signify that they’re struggling with their mental health. Everyone is tired occasionally but having more sleepless nights or rough mornings than well-rested ones is a cause for concern.

Some people lose their appetite, sleep through mealtimes, and don’t find pleasure in eating when they’re depressed. Others turn to food to comfort themselves or no longer have the energy to exercise and keep up with their nutrition regimen. Either way, if your loved one has been gaining or losing weight without trying to, it can be a sign that they’re struggling with depression (or a number of other serious medical conditions) and should be seen by a medical professional to determine the cause.

Increased frustration is a lesser-known symptom of depression, and it’s one that frequently goes unrecognized because it’s perceived as “just a personality flaw” when someone is often angry with their spouse, colleagues, or strangers. However, sustained irritability should be a cause for concern, especially for people (often men) who tend to direct the negative feelings associated with depression outwards rather than inwards.

If your loved one makes excuses not to see friends or seems to be avoiding gatherings, it can be a sign that they’re struggling. People with depression isolate themselves for a few reasons: they may want to avoid the pressure of “putting on a happy face” and keep others from worrying, they may feel that they don’t deserve to enjoy themselves, or they may lack the energy to be around friends. Everyone needs some occasional alone time to recharge their batteries and some people are naturally more introverted, but something is troubling your loved one if they go from socializing every weekend to shutting themselves away.

Many people have a glass of wine with dinner or a few drinks with friends. However, if you see that your loved one is drinking more often or drinking to excess, they may be trying to relieve depression symptoms such as sadness, insomnia, or guilt. Unfortunately, alcohol itself is a depressant and typically exacerbates any underlying mental illness. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates that about 20% of those with a mood disorder such as anxiety or depression also struggle with substance abuse.

Depression is often associated with emotional or cognitive symptoms, but it can also manifest physically through headaches, back pain, upset stomach, or body aches without a clear cause. This is more common among men who are often perceived as “weak” for talking about their feelings and in cultures that have a greater stigma surrounding mental health. For those who feel that they can’t put their depression into words, physical pain is easier to verbalize; a World Health Organization study of 1146 people from 14 countries found that 69% of people who met the clinical criteria for depression had only described physical, rather than emotional, problems as the reason for seeing their doctor.

Depression is treatable. Options include medication, talk therapy, and drug-free options such as Greenbrook TMS Therapy.

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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