I think we all need to be alive to the ‘depression signs’ – the things that can warn us that a person is at risk of developing depression.
Although I’ve already written about some of the warning signs of depression in men, which are often quite different from those in women, I don’t really want to take a tick-box approach here and just list all the signals or symptoms that you’ll find in the medical literature or elsewhere on the web. Because, of course, life is not that simple.
Depression signs or signs of life?
Yes, you may be irritable, you may not be sleeping well, you may have lost your appetite. But are those signs of impending depression or just a natural reaction to a tough time you’re currently having at work or in your relationship?
What if you’re losing interest in socializing or you’re not interested in doing much when you get home from work apart from shouting at the kids and watching TV (or maybe shouting at the TV and watching the kids). Aren’t we all like that from time to time?
Are these signs of approaching depression or just signs of being a normal person dealing with the pressures of an increasingly challenging and complex modern life?
Well, here’s where I get really helpful by saying that I think the answer to these questions is:
Partly, it depends on how big a deal these things are – how much impact they are having on your life. But, what it depends on most of all, is whether these are temporary circumstances and states of mind or whether they stick around.
Of course, it’s important not to wait too long to assess ‘stickability’. If you are starting to experience some of the feelings described above, take some action before depression really does take hold.
If you let things drift until your partner has left you and your doctor is trying fill you up with prozac, then you can safely conclude that you waited too long.
Get off the road where you see the ‘Burnout’ sign
Linda from TalkTherapyBiz.com has a written a great piece on psychological burnout . She describes burnout as:
“more than the blahs, different from stressed, and similar to depression … a warning sign alerting you to the need for mental reorganization.”
I think this is undoubtedly right. I think of burnout as a staging post on the road to depression. If you recognise that burnout is where you are when you get there, you can get off the road and take some action to head back in the right direction.
I know from my own experience that if you don’t recognise the signs for what they, you can be walking the black dog before you know it.
The problem with burnout is that you lose some of your critical thinking faculties. You lose sight of the obvious. You feel exhausted but you won’t take a break because you’ve got too much to do. You can’t sleep, so you get up at 4am and start work. You feel sluggish and lethargic, but you’re too tired to exercise so you sit in front of the box with a bottle of vino.
Somehow, you’ve got to find a way to recognize what is happening to you and then give yourself the breathing space to think clearly about what you need to do to help yourself.
If you are lucky, you will have somebody (a partner or a friend maybe) who will tell you that you need to do something about the way you’ve been behaving. If you are reading this for your own benefit, then I suppose that there is a good chance that you already realize that something has to give.
So what should you do to help yourself?
Linda has a great list of strategies which I recommend you check out, so I won’t repeat them here.
but, here’s a list of some of my suggestions:
- Show yourself some compassion.
- Read a book, preferably a novel. And I mean really read. Find a time and place when you won’t be disturbed, sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and read – for at least two hours. Do it regularly. In fact, do it as often as you can. I cannot tell you how therapeutic I find this to be.
- If you can, take a break. Go somewhere quite and peaceful for a few days. I felt more calm and contented than I had for a very long time when I recently spent a couple of days here :
Spend some time in a quiet place
- Try to force yourself do some of the things that you usually like to do, but which you’ve recently lost interest in.
- Spend some quality time with those you love (especially your kids if you have them) and focus on them and their needs, not your own. You’ll get a rush from the love you get back when your loved ones see that you’re really present with them for the first time in ages.
- Connect with others, especially your real, true friends. Don’t put off seeing them anymore and feel how good it is to relax into their company.
- Look out for the depression signs
- Don’t wait until its too late before you do something to counter them
- Listen to those around you, if they are telling you that things don’t seem right
- Take some deliberate, positive steps to turn round and head back in the right direction.
What other signs of potential depression should we be aware of and what other strategies do you know or use to help head off depression at the pass? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Main Picture: “Brixton Station” by Martin Grover.