Clinical Depression is a lot more serious and disabling than what we know as the ‘˜blues’ or the normal bouts of unhappiness everyone must contend with from time to time. It is both an illness and a very dark place to be. Learn to recognize it and get help when you need it.
Everyone gets unhappy sometimes. For most people, unhappiness is brought on by real life events and circumstances that tend to demystify the unhappiness to anyone paying attention. These periods of unhappiness generally pass and we return to our more ‘˜balanced’ baseline of mood.
Clinical Depression, on the other hand, while sometimes provoked by real life events, often is also influenced by some biogenetically predisposed proclivities. Yes, the vulnerability toward developing serious depression can, indeed, be an inherited trait. Clinical Depression is both a specific illness as well as a very dark place to be.
Further, unlike more routine unhappiness, ‘˜the blues’ or the low level long-term unhappiness we clinicians call Dysthymia, Clinical Depression is actually disruptive to one’s life and can become acutely disabling. It is a serious illness that calls out for treatment.
Here are some questions to help you self-diagnose the possibility of a true clinical depression. Any two of them should raise the question. Three or more of these conditions continuing for more than a week or two removes much doubt that you can probably benefit from some professional help.
Are things changing, categorically, for the worse? Is your life feeling useless and hopeless? Take a read through these specific questions and try answering them as honestly as you can. Hopefully, hey will lead you to a better understanding of what is happening to you and to professional help if it is needed.
1. What does the world look like to me?
There once was a popular expression used to characterize someone who always seemed to see the bright side of everything. It was said that they were “looking at the world through rose colored glasses.”
To a person stricken with a major depressive episode, the glasses they are wearing are a different and darker color. Through them, everything they look at appears bleak and gloomy. There is no light, only emptiness and chilled shadows of yesterday’s sights and sounds.
2. What kind of thoughts am I having?
Depression has a certain voice. It enters the mind of the person and speaks painful things. This voice often repeats every bad thing the person has ever thought about themselves or has been accused of. To the voice of depression, there is no doubt but that the complete negativity of these thoughts are warranted.
“You are worthless!” “You are responsible for causing so much suffering and pain.” “You do not deserve anything good in your life.” These are but a few illustrations of the scripts most commonly recited by the inner voice of depression.
These can include recurring thoughts about death and thoughts emphasizing feelings of hopelessness.
3. Am I able to experience pleasure in the things they usually have derived pleasure from?
A symptom called Anhedonia, the inability to derive pleasure from sources that have historically provided it, is one of the most obvious indicators of clinical depression. The things once loved and enjoyed have been sucked into the great vacuum caused by the depression. Nothing seems to give pleasure anymore.
4. Am I spending more time by myself?
Isolation is yet another frequent behavior that accompanies serious depression. Even people who sought and enjoyed the company of friends withdraw into themselves ‘” usually, by themselves.
Not wanting to go out, to school or to work; Spending hour after hour holed up in the bedroom; making excuses to avoid being with other people are all indicators of this behavioral “tell” for clinical depression.
5. Am I able to focus well enough to do my job and other tasks required by my daily life?
Difficulty focusing often accompanies depression. The normal ability to sustain focus on tasks is interrupted and displaced by the voices and thoughts described in #2. The person is trying to think about nothing, to go numb and blank.
Generally, the dark thoughts and voices fill the void, thus rendering activity one of the most useful behavioral interventions in treating depression.
6. Have my eating habits changed?
Significant changes in eating habits can also be very indicative of some deeper troubles. Appreciable appetite/weight loss or gain — acute and noticeable change in either direction is yet another tell=tale sign possibly pointing to clinical depression.
7. Do I feel or have other people mentioned that I seem increasingly irritable?
Has a person, who has been generally calm, gentle and good natured become suddenly quite irritable? This, too, is ‘” in tandem with some of the other items on this list is an indicator of unhappiness having become a Clinical Depression. This transformation of sadness into anger is especially, but not exclusively, true of men.
8. Am I sleeping a lot more or a lot less than usual?
Insomnia or Hypersomnia (No sleep or too much of it) are additional indicators of a possible clinical depression. As you can see, major changes in usual patterns of behavior can be telling signs.
9. Does my available energy seem reduced? Do I feel fatigued much of the time?
Depression steals energy. It is a distorter of vision, a liar and a thief. No wonder we regard it as a serious condition.
This is not a complete depression assessment, but includes many of the key aspects of one that can be self-administered. To use it correctly, a person needs be honest with themselves and sometimes willing to ask someone close to them to answer these questions with and about them. Clarification of what is going on and help awaits.
Most evidence-based research in the area of Clinical Depression informs us that the most effective treatment (for most people suffering from depression most of the time) is a combination of talk therapy and medicine.
Try the self-assessment, be honest with yourself and then, if it fits, the sooner you seek out some professional help, the more likely you will feel better sooner.