by: Sophia Walker
As someone who has suffered from depression their entire life, I would submit to you that there are NO signs of depression that are obvious and easy to understand.
I say this because at no point in my life has anyone, not friends nor family nor colleagues nor total strangers ever shown even the tiniest hint of understanding the symptoms of the depression I have suffered from.
For instance, a couple of weeks ago I went with my friend “Steve” to eat at a diner with his family. Completely out of the blue Steve’s father proceeds to tell me “what my problem is.” According to him, I am “unmotivated.” In my own defense, I am not entirely unmotivated; at that moment I was motivated to kick him in the fucking teeth.
Depression has caused people to call me unmotivated, lazy, uncaring, cruel, selfish, stupid and a hypochondriac. The one thing they seem unable to call me is a psychiatrist.
The fact is mental illness, especially depression, is simply not something that most people can even begin to understand. Depression is completely counter-intuitive and as a result utterly insidious.
For example, everyone experiences sadness, but most people can point to an environmental cause for it. Maybe their dog died or they lost their job. But if you take away a cause of sadness that you can easily point to, most people refuse to acknowledge that sadness can even exist. And yet sadness that doesn’t have an easily identifiable cause is a classic symptom of depression. Again, it’s counter-intuitive.
Another even more basic example of the insidious nature of depression is the loss of the will to live. Of course everyone wants to live; survival is a basic human instinct. So most people cannot grasp the concept of not wanting to live, it simply doesn’t seem possible. And yet suicide happens again and again, to the utter shock and amazement of just about everyone.
So let’s have a look at the “6 surprising symptoms of depression” shall we?
1. Achy joints and other unexplained pain
Often people notice that they don’t feel well, or that something hurts and don’t connect it with depression. “But headaches, back pain, stomach aches, and joint discomfort are actually common signs,” says psychiatrist Scott Halztman, MD, medical director of NRI Community Services in Rhode Island. “And they often resolve when the depression gets better.”
Not much I can say on this matter, I suffer from chronic pain all the time. And nobody seems to notice.
2. Gut reaction
Changes in your bowels (constipation or having to use the bathroom more than usual) are telltale signs of anxiety, which in itself is a stealth symptom of depression. This is especially true of women, says Haltzman.
I have an ulcer and a host of other digestive issues I won’t go into. But yeah this is a big one.
3. Diving into work
Some people stop functioning and don’t get out of bed. Others do the opposite, says Philip Muskin, MD, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, which is one of the screening sites. “Often people push themselves as hard as they can, physically and emotionally—into work, training for a marathon. It’s as if they’re fighting the depression.” While a hard worker might just be trying to score a promotion, Muskin says, when fueled by depression, the drive doesn’t have that clear goal.
If by “work” they mean “blogging,” yeah, I do tend to dive into certain activities with complete abandon.
4. Interviewing, but not getting the job
When you’re trying to get hired, depression is an insidious handicap, leeching you of the energy, warmth, and can-do spirit a person hiring wants to see. You may not realize you’re running on a low battery, but it’s as if the disease creates a palpable apathy. “From the interviewer’s perspective,” says Muskin, “there’s a very real difference when you look somebody in the eye and he doesn’t really look back, or his voice doesn’t have that quality of I’m really excited to be here, because he’s not excited about anything.” Also, Muskin points out, when you’re depressed it’s harder to dress and put yourself together in a way that says, “Hire me.”
I haven’t gotten a job I’ve interviewed for in 15 years.
5. Paranoid thoughts
Haltzman says in about 10 percent of cases, depression may include delusional thoughts. “I had a very bright patient with a PhD,” he says, “and she began to think that someone had planted the wires in her house to spy on her.” The delusions may take the form of thinking you have a fatal illness. Being convinced you have Alzheimer’s, for example, can be a red flag for depression, Haltzman says, because those who actually suffer from it generally aren’t aware they’re losing their memory.
The problem with this one is, I currently or in the past have suffered from 6 of the 10 leading causes of death of Americans. Am I paranoid or a hypochondriac? I think not.
6. Not being in the mood
When interest in sex nosedives for one person in a couple, there are all kinds of reasons that come to mind—age, boredom, medications, and mistresses among them. But Muskin stresses, it’s also a common sign of depression, especially when the man is suddenly unable to perform. “Depression makes you lose interest in a lot of things, including making love. If you notice a change, it’s something to consider.”
Sex? What’s that?
Sorry I really get on my soapbox when it comes to depression.
I am continually shocked by the fact that decent, intelligent and caring people can be so oblivious to the suffering that goes on right under their noses. But again, that just proves my point – that depression is simply not something that can be easily understood.
Depression is real folks, take my word for it.