Rachel couldn’t recognize herself when she saw her reflection staring back at her in the mirror. Her sunken eyes had lost their sparkle. She had lost a lot of weight, and none of her clothes fit her anymore–everything looked baggy and two sizes too big for her. She spent most of her day sleeping and distanced herself from her friends and family members. She would forget to eat, only having one meal a day. Her productivity at work was at an all-time low, and every day seemed to pass in a blur. She didn’t have the energy to do the things she loved–like reading, playing the guitar, and gardening. She even forgot to water her beloved plants!
While she was going through a tough season in her life, the thought of ending her life never crossed her mind. She just felt like a zombie–numb, as if she was living in a dream.
Kyle faced something similar after the end of his long-term relationship with his partner of ten years. He wasn’t sleeping at all as the racing thoughts in his mind would keep him up all night. He had also taken to seeking comfort in food and would find himself overindulging in food, which wasn’t doing any favors to his waistline as within a span of a month, he had gained ten pounds. He couldn’t concentrate on his work and spent his time mindlessly binge-watching TV shows on Netflix. But, just like Rachel, the thought of ending his life even crossed Kyle’s mind.
Depression and suicide are serious issues in today’s world. Some people may panic if they suspect that they or someone they know might be clinically depressed. After all, most of us have heard plenty of stories on the news about depression ending in tragedy.
Can you be depressed without being suicidal? People with depression don’t always develop suicidal thoughts. There are different types of depression, and even the most severe forms don’t always lead to suicide. It’s possible to have depression without feeling sad at all.
Because of the many forms, it can take, depression can be difficult to spot. There are also plenty of myths going around about it, making things even more confusing. It’s important to be aware of these myths and to be familiar with all the symptoms of depression so that people with the disease are more likely to get help.
Depression Doesn’t Look the Same: Different Types of Depression.
While Rachel and Kyle’s stories may be different, both of them were suffering from clinical depression. So, even though what they were experiencing and why they were experiencing it were different in both cases, there were still a few things that were common, that is, the symptoms.
So, what are the classic telltale symptoms of depression? According to the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) DSM 5, the following are the common symptoms of depression:
- Low mood all day, nearly every day.
- Lack of interest in activities the person previously found pleasurable.
- Changes in sleeping patterns (insomnia or hypersomnia)
- Weight changes (increase in weight or decrease in weight) that are not attributable to any other causes.
- Fatigue or loss of energy.
- Inability to think or concentrate and indecisiveness.
While recurrent thoughts of death and suicide are very serious symptoms of depression, they aren’t the only ones; these thoughts are just one possible symptom. This means that they may not be present in every depressed person.
Major Depressive Disorder
A person is diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder when they show five or more symptoms on the diagnostic list for two weeks and with either a depressed mood or a loss of interest in activities. If a person doesn’t experience either of these key symptoms, it’s not major depression.
Bipolar Disorder, or “Manic Depression”
Bipolar disorder is not quite the same as depression, but its old name was “manic depression” because a crucial part of the disorder involves depression symptoms. Bipolar disorder is when a person experiences dramatic swings between extremely high and low moods.
During times of high mood, the person feels excessively happy or energetic, to the point where it disrupts their lifestyle. During the low times, the person has some or all of the symptoms of major depression.
This type of depression also shares a list of symptoms with major depression. Someone with psychotic depression has some or all of those symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia. One of these must be present for the depression to be considered psychotic.
Despite the name, atypical depression is not all that unusual. It’s a fairly common type that shares symptoms with major depression. What sets the two apart is mood reactivity. A person with atypical depression will become happier after a positive event, while a person with major depression probably wouldn’t.
Atypical depression also involves excessive sleeping, increased appetite or weight, physical feelings of heaviness, and intense reactions to criticism. At least two of these have to be present in atypical depression.
You Only Need Some of the Symptoms
When most people picture someone with depression, they usually think of someone who’s incredibly sad and unable to cope with life, with little or no will to live–somewhat like a zombie, who’s there physically, but has checked out mentally.
However, this isn’t the right perception of depression at all.
With some people, you may not even be able to tell that they’re depressed, as they look perfectly normal and may even seem happy, but are champions at hiding their true feelings–this is called high-functioning depression.
So, as you can tell, there are even more types of depression than the ones listed above. With so many types and so many symptoms that come with each one, there are a lot of different signs that can indicate when someone is depressed. But here’s the key: depression looks different in everyone. For each type of depression, you only need some of the possible symptoms to be diagnosed.
This means that one person with depression might maintain a perfectly normal appetite while another person starts skipping most of their meals. A third person might feel numb toward life, without any signs of happiness or sadness, while a fourth might be constantly sad but still able to enjoy some activities.
Just like how Rachel and Kyle had different symptoms but showed signs of depression.
And while some may contemplate suicide, others may not. Once again, a depressed mood and lack of interest are the only two symptoms required for a diagnosis. Any case of depression will always involve one or both of these, but the rest of the symptoms can be very different from case to case.
It Can Change Over Time
We often like to believe that we know ourselves well.
Even if a person has the symptoms of depression, they might not be that concerned because they can’t imagine themselves considering suicide. They might decide they’re not “that type of person” and simply brush off the possibility.
But like most things in life, depression isn’t a static thing. It might start mild and become severe, or vice versa and the change could happen slowly over many years. This can make it hard for people to notice their condition getting worse.
It’s a bit like growing up with a good friend. They change a lot over the years, but we probably won’t notice the changes if we see them every day. But if we move away and meet them again years later, they almost look like a different person. In the same way, the severity of depression can change so slowly that we don’t notice it happening.
Just because a person with depression isn’t suicidal now doesn’t mean they won’t become suicidal in the future. The slow, subtle way that depression can develop makes it crucial to track the disease and treat it as soon as possible before it’s too late.
Myths About Depression
There are a lot of misconceptions going around about depression. For instance, some think it’s just a mood and not a real illness. Many people also see it as a sign of weakness or believe that it’s something you can simply “snap out of.”
With something as serious as depression, people must have all the facts. Myths like these don’t help anyone—in fact, they make it harder for many people who have depression to admit they have it, especially when they think someone close to them might look down on them.
Depression is a very real mental illness. If you hear anyone say that it’s just a mood, remember there are a lot of trained professionals who disagree with them. Having depression doesn’t mean you’re weak; just like with the cold or the flu, it simply means something wrong needs to be taken care of. And you can’t always “snap out of” depression. Many cases require treatment from professionals.
These are just a few of the common myths about depression. If you know anyone who believes them, why not try to clear things up? Maybe the next time they meet someone with depression, they’ll understand better.
How to Know If Someone Is Suicidal
If someone talks openly about killing themselves or thinking about death, it’s a significant warning sign that shouldn’t be taken lightly. While this is one of the more obvious signs that someone is suicidal, there are also times when the signs aren’t so clear.
A more subtle sign of suicidal thoughts is when a person begins to act strangely in a few specific ways. For example, they might update or start working on their will or begin giving away their possessions. This suggests they’re making preparations for death.
A person who has been acting sad, anxious, or moody for a while might one day seem perfectly calm or even relieved. This is a warning sign because it might mean they’ve decided to go through with suicide and have made peace with it.
Another possible sign is when someone starts to act more recklessly than normal. They might drive drunk or perform dangerous stunts. Behavior like this can mean that the person no longer cares what happens to them or that they’re hoping to die in an accident without needing to “officially” commit suicide.
Depression can take a lot of different forms. It can be hard to know whether someone else is depressed, but it can be even harder for a person to detect it in themselves. If you’re wondering whether you or someone you know might be depressed, remember that it never hurts to get help. You never know when you might save a life.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. tel: 1-800-273-8255
There’s Help Out There
An estimated 14.8 million adults in the US suffered from depression in 2020 alone, with this being 6% of all adults in the country. It is safe to say that depression is one of the country’s most common and well-known mental health issues. It is so common; it is also one of the most well-researched conditions.
This means that help is available to people in many forms, and all you need to do is to reach out to the right people.
Medicines for Depression
Major depressive episodes are treated with medications, such as SSRIs, SNRIs, etc., to help address the neurochemical changes in the brain. These drugs work by balancing out the neurotransmitters, allowing one to feel better. A psychiatrist typically prescribes these medications and determines the correct dosage.
It’s crucial to follow your physician’s advice and avoid self-medication.
Talking Therapy and Counselling
While medicines may help do half of the job by addressing the physical components of the condition, talking therapy can help you manage the underlying issues that you need to deal with to put in place new and healthy coping skills. Therapy can help you deal with the environmental factors contributing to your depression and encourages you to find ways to deal with them.
Exercise and Diet
Healthy body, healthy mind. Lifestyle changes are crucial in addressing depression. While exercise can pump your body with a healthy and natural dose of dopamine, the feel-good hormone that makes you feel happier, a healthy diet ensures your body is getting all the nutrients it needs to be and stay healthy.
Isolation is one of the most significant contributing factors to depression, and socializing can help make you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. Talking to people can help you feel a sense of belongingness and makes you feel loved, wanted, cared for, and nurtured.
With the proper treatment and therapy, people can overcome their depression and are even able to come out stronger and more resilient.