The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders v. 5) describes Major Depressive Disorder, or depression, as a condition where a person's mood, and other mental and physical systems, are significantly impeded for a period of time. Persistent Depressive Disorder, or chronic depression, lasts at least 2 years in adults.
Commonly known symptoms of depression include:
But some symptoms of depression are not so obvious. There are several signs of suffering that can be misconstrued, misunderstood, or fly under the radar all together. So keep an eye out for these 4 signs of depression you may not recognize.
Some people don't know how to process or express their feelings of fear, hopelessness, helplessness, grief, melancholy or isolation in a healthy way and so mask those uncomfortable emotions with aggression. This misdirect prevents and protects them from feeling or being viewed as vulnerable, weak or unworthy.
People who have experienced trauma and violence may resort to using rage or angry outbursts to conceal their depression, although anyone can use this unhealthy coping mechanism. Depressed men also tend to lash out in verbal or physical attacks or throw a tantrum instead of crying, asking for a hug, or simply having someone listen to and empathize with them. Unfortunately, this is because men have fewer socially acceptable emotions to choose from than their female counterparts, and are more inclined to express a wide range of negative emotions as anger.
Because of the stigma attached to the traditional symptoms of depression men can also have a harder time asking for support. The fear of rejection, further alienation, and attacks on one's manhood after asking for help can make these symptoms even worse.
Excessive guilt is a lesser known symptom of depression. Although it is a clinically recognized the average person doesn't realize guilt can be a sign of something deeper. Guilt is a natural emotion and someone with a reasonable level of empathy and self-awareness will experience plenty of guilt in their lifetime. But excessive guilt, over long periods of time, over minor or even imaginary things, can signal a serious problem.
Excessive guilt can be misread as severe anxiety or a personality quirk or disorder. It can also drift into patterns of paranoia; feeling like others are talking about you, angry with you, or out to get you because of something you did or think you did.
Emotions have a way of transforming themselves into physical sensations. Excessive or insatiable hunger can sometimes be a sign that something is missing in a person's life. Trauma and grief can leave what feels like a hole that needs to be filled inside of someone. When life feels empty and nothing seems to satisfy, food can do the job in a pinch.
Binge eating, sometimes accompanied by purging, is often associated with emotional trauma. Although these behaviors are associate with Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia Nervosa, both eating disorders that can be co-morbid with depression, they aren't always. There are also neurological misfires and hormone imbalances than can increase or disrupt the sensation of hunger. Whether you indulge or resist your urges, it is not normal to constantly feel the need to eat. It may point to a greater pain beneath the hunger pangs.
Physical pain such as headaches, migraines, muscle aches, joint pain, chest pain and even digestive issues can imply a problem with depression. Not all people with chronic or acute pain have depression, although pain disorders can lead to depressed feelings. And not all people with depression experience physical pain. But hurting for no clear reason, along with other symptoms, over a period of time can build a good case for depression. It can also implicate other illnesses like Fibromyalgia, Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis. This is why it is so important to find therapeutic and medical professionals to help parse the complexities of the human body.
Different mental health disorders can share similar symptoms, so it is always important to consult a professional when it comes to mental health. If you notice any of these more or less common symptoms of depression in yourself or someone you care about, encourage them to contact a licensed therapist, counselor or psychologist. Luckily, there are more options than ever to find professional help, and several apps and websites offer 100% remote counseling if in-person sessions are not your preference. Depression is real and can become debilitating if left untreated. So make the decision to manage it today.