Many think depression is the same thing as “feeling sad” or “going through a hard time.” The reality? Depression is a mood disorder that impacts every aspect of someone’s life. It disrupts sleep, physical health, and emotional well-being. It’s painful for the person suffering and it’s painful for their family and friends to watch. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, you’re not alone. 746,000 people in Kentucky are struggling with mental health conditions right now.
Experiencing something like this can make you feel defeated or like there’s no hope. It’s important to remember this: treatment for depression is often effective and life-changing. Sun Behavioral Health is committed to using evidence-based techniques in all of our programs and services.
For those who haven’t experienced severe depression, it might be difficult to identify its symptoms. Depression has different levels of severity. Some types of depression can be dangerous if they go untreated. Noticing these signs and symptoms can save a life.
Symptoms of depression show up a little differently in each person based on things like age, personality, and lifestyle.
If your teen or young adult is experiencing depression, it can make you feel helpless. All you want to do is help, but you may not know how. What makes severe depression especially tough in this age group is the hormones they’re already experiencing. Burgeoning hormones in teens can cause things like sadness, anxiety, or small behavioral changes. With severe depression, however, you’ll see major changes in behavior and appearance.
If your teen or young adult is experiencing severe depression, he/she will have little to no interest in any activities that bring joy or pleasure. You’ll see them avoiding creative projects that usually make them happy. They may isolate themselves from friend groups they’ve been a part of for years. Their self-esteem can be extremely low – they’ll often make self-deprecating remarks or see themselves as unworthy. You may notice a change in appearance or hygiene.
Self-loathing or feelings of worthlessness are symptoms to look out for. When a teen is suffering like this, it’s common for them to feel like their thoughts or feelings don’t matter. This makes it difficult for them to make plans or goals for their future. They may also display symptoms of extreme irritability. Depression makes people irritable because it’s an exhausting disorder, and your child will often be tired. While regular conflict can be a normal sign of teenage rebellion, it becomes constant when your teen is depressed. You’ll most likely see a lot of lashing out and arguing. It can make you feel like your home is in constant turmoil.
Arguably, the most severe symptom of depression is suicidal thoughts or tendencies. If you ever hear your child talking about taking their own life, it’s important to get immediate help. Suicidal tendencies might look like suicide attempts or a simple disregard for their own life. These symptoms can be scary. In most cases, these suicidal thoughts or actions are not permanent. With proper treatment, they’ll decrease and eventually disappear. If there’s even a doubt in your mind as to whether or not your child’s behavior is healthy, it’s best to speak with your doctor. The symptoms of puberty and adolescence can closely resemble those of depression, so it doesn’t hurt to get another opinion if you’re unsure.
Symptoms in adults or older adults vary from the symptoms in teens because of a few reasons. Adults tend to be more private about their feelings or their personal lives. It’s hard for adolescents to remain private when they’re under your roof and following your rules, so their symptoms might be more obvious.
Just like with children, adults can experience things like suicidal thoughts, fatigue, irritability, and loss of interest in activities. With adults, however, you’ll notice a change in their way of life. The feelings of hopelessness or self-loathing may prevent them from going to work, so they might lose their job. They’ll feel a disconnect between family and friends, so their relationships may start to crumble. They may have a hard time paying their bills or managing their finances. Things like showering or cleaning the house may become extremely difficult, so you’ll notice a change there. Intense feelings of apathy or worthlessness will prevent them from participating in self-care.
Depression is a very isolating disorder for an adult. If you’re experiencing depression, you may avoid leaving the house or going to work because you don’t want anyone to know what’s going on with you. The reason self-care is often neglected is that depression isn’t just hard on the mind – it’s hard on the body. Without realizing it, you may be neglecting your diet or your sleep. This can make you feel extremely fatigued. For many adults, you’ll also see an increase in alcohol or drug use as a form of self-medication.
It isn’t your fault that you’re unable to get routine things done, but you might blame yourself. If you find this happening, try to remember: millions of others share your pain. Instead of looking at how much you have to do and how overwhelming it is, take one small thing at a time. Many people suffering from severe depression compare taking a shower to climbing a mountain. This can be a very debilitating illness.
Suicidal thoughts can be extreme and feel like they’re coming out of nowhere. When many people think “suicidal thoughts”, they think of something like: “I want to kill myself.” These thoughts happen, yes, but they’re usually more subtle. They might sound more like “I wonder if anyone would even care if I was dead?” or “I wonder what would happen if I just drove my car into this tree?”
Someone who is suicidal might make plans for what will happen after their death – even when nothing is physically wrong with them. They might write notes for loved ones to read once they’re gone. Others might frequently threaten suicide to family or friends. All threats of suicide should be taken seriously.
Suicidal behaviors usually come in the form of self-harm. Sometimes the depression is so severe or advanced that it can numb survival instincts. These behaviors can look like an overdose of drugs or alcohol poisoning. People with severe depression may also find themselves participating in unsafe sex or reckless driving. This happens because severe depression can cause a disregard for one’s own life. It can also cause a need to “escape” or “end” the pain and suffering.
If you or someone you love is experiencing any of these thoughts or displaying any of these actions, it’s vital to get help immediately. Thoughts and threats of suicide should never be taken lightly. Suicide is 100% preventable.
Medication, therapy, or a combination of the two is usually needed to find relief from severe depression. When someone is suffering this badly, it’s usually because the mind and body are deeply in need of help. Talk therapy can help bring any traumas to the surface so they can be dealt with. It can also help with things like healthy coping strategies, validation, and education on the disorder. Medication can help in regulating the parts of the brain that are struggling to produce things like serotonin or dopamine (important chemicals that regulate mood.) When both methods of treatment are used in combination, they’re usually effective and can save lives.
If you’re experiencing any of the struggles we’ve discussed, we want you to know you’re not alone. What you’re going through is significant and overwhelming. You don’t have to feel like this forever, and your life is valued. At Sun Behavioral Health, our compassionate and knowledgeable staff is ready and waiting to help in any way we can. We care deeply for everyone in our community, and we know how hard depression can be. Our counselors are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.