How to Recognize Depression

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Most people recognize that depression is serious and real, but we also fail to identify it or take it seriously when we face it in real life. The word “depression” can conjure up images and expectations that create stereotypes which are hard to confront. The stigma is real, so when we confront depression in our own life we are often taken by surprise.

What is Depression?

The first step to truly recognizing depression in yourself and others is to reassess your definition. Depression is feelings of deep sadness and hopelessness; it’s true. But it’s much, much more than that. Depression is a mental illness caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The brain and heart may think and feel things that aren’t accurate and are dificult to control.

It is important to recognize depression as an illness and not something you or anyone else can just “snap out of,” even if they try. Don’t blame yourself, and don’t blame others. Try to think outside the box when it comes to depression, because it doesn’t just look like “the blues.”

How to Recognize Depression

One of the biggest indicators of depression is change. Is a social person seeming much more antisocial? Did you used to love going to the gym, but now you never seem to have the energy to exercise? Look for changes in yourself or others that seem strange or inexplicable.

Another key stigma to correct is the idea that smiling or happy people can’t have depression. Just because someone seems happy, looks like they are having fun, or has a seemingly perfect life doesn’t mean that they can’t be suffering from depression. You will recognize depression when you break down your personal stigmas and stereotypes, look for change, and familiarize yourself with these common signs and symptoms of depression:

• Sadness, crying, negative outlook on life;
• Guilt, beating themselves up;
• Irritability, anger, and aggression – especially in males;
• Sleeping all day and/or dificulty sleeping at night;
• Dificulty making decisions, focusing, remembering details;
• Weight gain/loss – if it’s noticeable over a month or so, it’s definitely an indicator;
• Self harm and suicidal thoughts.

It starts with recognition of these symptoms, even if you’re certain it can’t be depression. Think about friends or family members who seem a little “off” or are changing – are they displaying any of these signs or symptoms? If you’ve been having a rough few months – do you have any of these indicators?

Depression doesn’t just mean sadness, crying, or sleeping all the time. We need to learn to recognize all of the potential signs of depression, because it can look completely different for each individual.

We can fight depression every day by recognizing and validating symptoms – and by standing with those under its power. Don’t be afraid to reach out, offer help, or ask for help. Depression is conquered by light and love.

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