If you’ve ever asked yourself “Do I have depression?” you already know that it can be a difficult question to answer. Depression in itself can be a tricky thing to diagnose. In some cases, people may ignore the signs and symptoms of depression because they just aren’t sure how severe symptoms need to be before they get help. Taking some time to ask yourself a few questions can help you to decide if what you are experiencing is depression.
Do I have depression if I experience a major traumatic event?
Some people who have experienced the death of a family member or close friend may be concerned that what they are feeling is depression. Indeed, depression and grief do share some characteristics. The difference between the two deals mainly with time and cause. Grief, as deeply felt as it is, is a temporary state. People going through a loss will feel themselves slowly coming out of their shock and sadness as time passes. There is also a definite triggering event followed by a slow return to “normal.”
Depression, on the other hand, does not require any particular event to begin, and there is no slow recovery without treatment of some kind. A depressed person may experience good times when things don’t seem so bad, only to return to a depressed state just a few hours later. This is a cycle that can continue indefinitely and doesn’t seem to be affected by good fortune or happy events.
Postpartum depression (PPD) may be the only type of depression that has something of a triggering effect (the birth of a child), and the timing is very specific. As with other depressive disorders, postpartum depression can be very serious if left untreated. Approximately 80% of women experience postpartum depression. A quick quiz with more specific questions can help find out if depressive symptoms may be related to PPD.
In the end, depression does not require a triggering event and does not resolve by itself as the event recedes with time.
Do I have depression if I am feeling sad?
We all have days where we feel low or sad. This does not mean you are depressed. Depression is an intense, overwhelming feeling of deep sadness. These feelings may be accompanied by feelings of worthlessness or negative thoughts about your value as a human being.
These feelings may arise even on happy occasions, like at weddings or other family celebrations. Other feelings related to deep sadness are hopelessness and a feeling of despair that things will ever feel better. They may be accompanied by tearfulness or anxiety.
While occasional sadness is normal, sadness as it relates to depression is ongoing, deeper, and unrelieved.
Do I have depression if I feel lonely?
We all have moments when we feel as if we are alone in the world, but for people experiencing depression, they may feel that the world would actually be better if they were not in it. The loneliness that depressed people feel can be debilitating, starting a cycle where the depressed person feels they cannot reach out to others but also that if they don’t they will truly be alone.
Do I have depression if my back hurts?
Pain is a little-acknowledged symptom of depression. The muscle tension experienced by depressed people can result in back pain, neck pain, muscle aches, and migraine headaches. Additionally, depression that is accompanied by anxiety can cause stomach pain and cramping as the body tries to process these powerful feelings.
Do I have depression if I can’t fall asleep?
Sleep disturbances are a major hallmark of depression, and they can follow several different patterns. Depressed people may be unable to sleep. Their mind may start racing the moment they turn off the light and not stop for hours into the night. Depressed people may also fall asleep easily but wake up in the middle of the night and be unable to fall back asleep.
In addition to not getting enough sleep, getting too much sleep can be a symptom of depression. Depressed people following this pattern may sleep all night and much of the day and still feel exhausted.
Any change in sleep pattern, from too much to too little, can be a sign of depression.
Do I have depression if I yell at my kids?
Irritability with the kids when they are arguing or not doing their chores at home is normal for many parents, but parents who are quick to anger over minor infractions may be exhibiting a sign of depression. For men who are conditioned in the U.S. to be strong, silent types, displaying sadness or despair as a symptom of depression may not be “allowed.” Anger may be a more “acceptable” expression.
If you are a parent thinking about whether or not your child or teenager is exhibiting depressive symptoms, you might look for slightly different manifestations of depression. Children and teens might display more clingy behavior than normal, not wanting to leave your side. They may argue about going to school, and older teens may see their school performance change dramatically (e.g., going from straight “As” to barely passing). Kids of all ages may also seem irritable and withdrawn, and they may see changes in appetite, either dramatically losing or gaining weight (same with adults).
For children and adults alike, depression makes it difficult to function in daily life. Your lows may make every task seem insurmountable, and you may feel like there is no hope in sight.
If you think you might be experiencing depression, it is important to get help. Treatment for depression has come a long way and doesn’t always involve medication. Often, with a qualified behavioral therapist, some changes in diet and exercise, and other holistic therapies like meditation, depression can be managed without medications.
If you think you might have depression, start here with an online depression quiz, then talk to your doctor to see what your next steps are. Reach out to get the help you need.