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  • Writer's pictureLiz Beiderman

Depression…Is That What This Is?

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

It’s normal to feel down once in awhile, but how do we know when what we’re feeling may actually be depression in disguise? Here we take a look at some of the ways milder forms of depression appear, and how to cope.

An image of dried up fallen leaves on damp pavement after rain has passed, with sunlight faintly reflected through a small puddle. The photo displays both somber and hopeful elements.

What are some of the things that come to mind when you think about depression? For many it can be the usual culprits like sad mood, tearfulness, or feeling hopeless and discouraged. Some of the more severe types of depression, which can make even getting out of bed in the morning feel next to impossible, are pretty easy to recognize. In those instances, it usually doesn’t take a diagnosis for us to clue in to the fact that something’s wrong.

However, it can be much more difficult to spot the symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression. Believe it or not, some of them can be so stealthy and ambiguous that it takes us a while to even label what we’re feeling as depression.

What are Common Signs of Mild or Moderate Depression?

Many of the symptoms of mild or moderate depression share features with other afflictions such as stress and anxiety. While depression can certainly go hand-in-hand with those issues, we’re often too quick to assume that the problem ends there.

An image of a despondent young woman gazing out of a window pane partially obscured by raindrops. The image represents an individual struggling with depression.

Some common symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression that can be attributed to other causes include:

  • Changes in appetite, sex drive, or sleeping patterns (e.g. sleeping a lot more or a lot less than usual).

  • Physical symptoms that persist after ruling out an underlying medical cause, such as aches and pains, headaches, or indigestion.

  • Low energy, fatigue, and feeling lethargic throughout the day.

  • Irritability and short-temperedness.

  • Low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt.

  • Apathy and loss of motivation.

  • Social withdrawal and loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy.

  • Difficulty with concentration, memory, or productivity at work or school.

These symptoms can be easy to dismiss as circumstantial or inconsequential when we first take notice of them. However, if they linger for weeks or months and begin to interfere with your work, personal, or social life, it may be helpful to speak with your doctor to see if the problem may be deeper and more persistent than ‘everyday stress.’ The result of misattributing our symptoms is that we often wait too long to seek help.

Why Do We Put Off Getting Help?

It goes without saying that feeling this way isn’t especially enjoyable and tends to make our lives more difficult than they need to be. Yet, many people struggle in depressed states for months or even years without seeking help. There are several possible reasons for this.

One prominent worry is the stigma attached to mental health due to misconceptions about these types of issues. Many individuals come to view getting help as a sign of ‘weakness,’ or depression itself as something to be ashamed of, and subsequently hide it from others. Imagine what we might discover if everybody who felt that way suddenly opened up about their struggles?

Another reason some don’t seek help is they may underestimate the extent of the impact of depression on their lives until it begins affecting their employment or relationships. Others may assume that the problem will go away on its own without any intervention. Finally, some individuals just learn to adapt to lower levels of functioning and accept their inability to thrive as the new ‘normal.’

So when is it a good idea to seek help? There often comes a point where we realize that the status quo isn’t working for us anymore, and perhaps never was. That tipping point may vary from person to person, but if the notion of feeling this way indefinitely seems like a bleak prospect, you may have your answer.

Once We’ve Identified Depression, How Do We Manage It?

Photo of a young woman seated at a table in front of a window while writing in a journal. A closed book and cup of coffee also occupy the table, with several potted plants lining the window sill.

If you suspect that your symptoms may be indicative of depression or another underlying mental health concern, meeting with a professional can be helpful in honing in on what’s really going on. It’s only when we have a complete picture of the problem that we can start making the best informed choices in our search for solutions.

The good news is that there are many ways we can manage and reduce these symptoms. Consulting with your family doctor is a great way to explore any possible medical factors that may be playing a role in your symptoms. Lifestyle factors such as staying physically active, prioritizing sleep, and eating a balanced and nutritious diet can also go a long way towards improving how we feel. Emotional outlets and mindfulness activities such as journaling, meditating, or speaking to someone are also good ways to keep us feeling connected.

While it’s normal to not feel 100% great all the time, we don’t have to settle for constantly “just getting by.” Whatever symptoms you’re struggling with or the reasons stopping you from tackling them, there’s no time like the present to seek help and take control over your emotional wellbeing!

Do you suspect you may be living with depression? Book a free consultation to discuss how therapy can help!

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