Little-Known Symptoms of Depression
You probably have at least a vague sense of what depression is. If I forced someone in the grocery store to tell me a symptom of depression, I’m guessing they might say depression involves feeling extremely sad (after they decided against chucking a few apples at me). Prompted by the setting, *maybe* they might also say that depression symptoms can include changes in appetite. Perhaps a bagger might chime in about energy loss, and so on. Indeed, these guesses would be on target: current diagnostic criteria for depression incorporate these three as well as five other relatively well-known symptoms (lessened enjoyment, change in weight, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, lessened concentration, and suicide-related thoughts or behavior). However, our understanding of depression goes much deeper than this simple picture.
Depression looks different for each person
Certainly, many depressed people experience the most well-known symptoms mentioned above. Even so, symptoms of depression often look different from this stereotypical picture – and in fact, from many other people’s. Cutting-edge research suggests that unique combinations of symptoms may be closer to the rule than the exception.
One reason is that the diagnostic criteria don’t capture all key symptoms. For instance, one scientific paper described all the ways professionals have measured depression. The author identified 52 different symptoms that professionals have suggested might be part of depression! Part of the variation is likely due to poor measurement. However, symptoms like irritability, anger, pessimism, and crying can be parts of depression that aren’t adequately described by the standard 8-item list. Like the better-known eight symptoms, any possible symptoms of depression could always be part of another mental struggle, medical issue, or other separate cause. Thus, figuring out what symptoms are and aren’t part of your depression is an important puzzle.
A second way you may be unique concerns how troubling you find various symptoms. If you’ve ever experienced depression, you know that not all symptoms are equally bothersome. For someone who is a restaurant critic, a lack of appetite may impair their ability to work effectively. For a sales associate, their lack of concentration may be causing them to lose potential clients. In addition to experiencing the symptom itself, each person may find a symptom uniquely upsetting or impairing.
A final complexity stems from the mathematics of how symptoms combine. Even if you only use the standard eight symptoms, “depression” could still present in numerous ways. For example, current criteria suggest a person must have five out of eight symptoms for a diagnosis. It turns out there are 93 different ways a person could be experiencing ≥ five out of the eight symptoms!
Teamwork Can Figure Your Symptoms Out
Above all, the lesson to take about symptoms of depression is that each person needs to be carefully understood as an individual. The good news is that you are well-positioned to seek such an understanding and handle whatever struggles your symptoms may be causing. At Wellness Path Therapy, I consider you to be the expert on your own experiences. You are the only person who has been there minute-by-minute, experiencing what it is like to be you your entire life! By combining your expertise with professional support in understanding symptoms, you can get to the bottom of what is happening. If you are considering professional help to address your symptoms of depression, I encourage you to reach out to me or other therapists to begin your therapy journey.