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10 Big Symptoms of Depression: A Silent Killer

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

Depression is an invisible mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a silent killer because its effects can go unnoticed, leading to profound suffering and death by those who fight this hidden battle. By understanding the depths of depression, we can create a more supportive environment and help people find a path to health and healing.

A dock at sunset

What is Depression: The Unchosen Path

Depression is a persistent sadness that interferes with your ability to function or enjoy life. When formally diagnosed, depression is a group of mood disorders characterized by the presence of a low mood or loss of interest or pleasure in activities and physical or mental changes that affect daily functioning. You do not need a diagnosis to seek treatment.

Depression is not a choice. It doesn't discriminate and can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. It can manifest in various ways, making it challenging to comprehend and overcome. From morning dread to dark days and sleepless nights, depression can cast a shadow over every aspect of life, making even the simplest tasks seem impossible.

Person holding balloons and covering their face

10 Big Symptoms of Depression: The Many Faces

Depression manifests differently for each person, but the emotional and physical toll it takes is universal. The mental and emotional anguish can be overwhelming, leaving individuals crying for relief from the darkness that clouds their existence. Depression can manifest as these common symptoms:

  1. Depressed mood: Depression can result in a wide array of emotions, including feeling sad, lonely, empty, tired, hopeless, despair, irritable, discouraged, heavy, dark, down, stuck, and blue.

  2. Loss of interest or pleasure: Depression can show up as avoidance or disinterest in activities, sports, hobbies or a lack of social interactions that you once enjoyed.

  3. Appetite or weight change: Depression can affect your appetite, food intake, and body weight, resulting in weight gain, or weight loss even without dieting.

  4. Insomnia or hypersomnia: Depression can disrupt your sleep quality causing difficulties with falling asleep, staying asleep, restless sleep, or oversleeping.

  5. Restlessness or collapse: Depression can make you feel restless with uncomfortable urges to move with the inability to relax, or it can leave you in a state of collapse and immobility where you are unable to move.

  6. Fatigue or loss of energy: Depression can cause fatigue in your body, low energy, tiredness, general weakness, heaviness and require an increased effort to do basic physical tasks and daily activities.

  7. Worthlessness or guilt: Depression can make you feel negatively about yourself and others, and leave you feeling guilty and responsible for what you do or cannot do.

  8. Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or deciding: Depression can impact your memory, attention, focus, and decision making, leaving you struggling with daily tasks, work, house care, and relationships.

  9. Suicidal ideation or attempts: Depression can lead to intrusive self harm and suicidal ideation, thoughts, urges and attempts.

  10. Distressed or impaired functioning: Depression can affect all aspects of your daily life; you might experience distress with the symptoms, and lose your ability to maintain good relationships and work or study productively.

Abstract image with stars

10 More Signs of Depression: The Fleeting Light and the Abyss

Depression is unpredictable. Moments of respite can offer glimpses of light, but sometimes, the darkness intensifies, plunging individuals into an abyss of despair. You might feel like you are in a dark place even when you are outside in sunny weather or spending time with family and friends.

It might show up as a constant feeling of loneliness with a heaviness in your chest, or an abrupt wave of pain while you’re just going about your day. It can be disheartening when you can't seem to get better, or when you are finally doing well then the depressed feelings overcome you with a renewed force. Depression can appear as these symptoms as well:

  • Anxious distress

  • Dissociation

  • Mood reactivity

  • Angry outbursts

  • Social withdrawal

  • Impulsivity

  • Risky behaviors

  • Increased alcohol or substance use

  • Ongoing headaches

  • Unexplained physical complaints

The Different Types of Depression: Fighting the Shadows

The most well known type of depression is major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, and it can be categorized as mild, moderate, severe or persistent. This form of depression commonly involves the 10 big symptoms above, and can affect children, teens, and adults.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) tends to occur during specific seasons, typically winter. It is characterized by recurring episodes of depression that coincide with decreases in natural sunlight. SAD can lead to low energy, increased sleep, weight gain, and a general sense of sadness or despair.

Postpartum depression affects women after childbirth associated with hormonal changes, emotional adjustments, and the demands of caring for a newborn. It can result in intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion, making it challenging for new mothers to bond with their babies and enjoy the early stages of motherhood.

Depression with psychotic features combines depressive symptoms with features of psychosis such as hallucinations or delusions.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome that can cause significant mood disturbances and interfere with daily functioning.

Holding a watch

The Causes of Depression: Holding Space for Emotions

There is no one cause for depression and it's development remains complex and multifaceted. Biological factors, traumatic life events, chronic stress, social isolation, and a lack of support systems can all contribute to depression.

Depression can also stem from the emotional wounds of early neglect or trauma. Grief, shame, loneliness, and anger can all manifest within the individual, creating an intricate web of emotions that overwhelm a person's capacity to tolerate feelings and stay connected with themselves and others.

It can be helpful to consider the risk and protective factors that impact depression:

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of depression or other mental health disorders

  • Chronic pain/illness or death/loss

  • Substance use or excessive consumption of drugs or alcohol

  • Abuse or neglect as a child

  • Traumatic experiences including violence, accidents, or natural disasters

  • Poverty or lack of support and health services

Protective Factors:

  • Regular physical activity and a healthy diet

  • Natural support systems with family, friends and community or sports groups

  • Healthy coping mechanisms with emotional tolerance and regulation

  • Resilience and optimism

  • Stable home environment and financial security

  • Good access to support services and mental health care

Options for Depression Treatment: The Journey to Recovery

Those facing depression try various strategies to cope and find happiness. Fortunately, there are effective treatments available for depression that can help individuals alleviate symptoms, regain control over their lives, and improve their overall well-being. Treatment approaches may vary depending on the severity and individual needs and preferences. Here are some common treatments for depression:

  1. Therapy: Talk therapy and somatic therapy involve working with a trained therapist to explore and address the underlying causes of depression. In therapy, individuals can develop coping strategies, challenge negative thoughts, recognize and process difficult feelings, find safety in their body and release stuck feelings, and learn healthier ways of managing pain and emotions.

  2. Lifestyle changes: Adopting healthy lifestyle habits like regular exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient sleep, and avoiding excessive alcohol or substance use can all contribute to improved mental health. Participating on a sports team can also help decrease symptoms of depression.

  3. Support groups: Joining peer support groups or participating in group therapy can provide a sense of community and understanding. Connecting with others who are facing similar challenges can offer support, validation, and shared experiences, fostering a sense of belonging and reducing feelings of isolation.

  4. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Practices such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga can help individuals cultivate present-moment awareness and reduce stress. Trauma-sensitive mindfulness can be learned in therapy and integrated into daily routines to promote emotional health.

  5. Medication: While research has established therapy is effective for treating depression, it is important to remember your situation is unique, and a combination of therapy and medication may be what works best for you. You can talk to your doctor about medication for depression. Therapy can be effective for people who do not respond well to medication or prefer not to take it.

Recovering from depression is not a linear process. Everyone's journey with depression is unique, and finding the right treatment approach may require some experimentation. It might involve small steps forward, setbacks, and moments of triumph. You can celebrate progress made, no matter how small, while also being gentle with yourself during difficult times.

Amid the fight against depression, there is a lesson in surrender. Instead of constantly resisting, it is crucial to acknowledge and accept the feelings that arise. This doesn't mean giving in to despair but rather creating space for self-compassion and healing. By acknowledging the painful emotions and seeking support, you can begin a process of self-discovery and growth. Recovery is possible, and asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Woman in sunflower field

Depression Counselling in Calgary: Embracing the Light Within

Are you tired of feeling trapped in the depths of depression? At Therapy Alberta, we want to help you find hope and happiness again. Our compassionate therapists are ready to guide you through the process of understanding and caring for your emotions and experiences. They work to create a safe and supportive therapeutic space where you can explore your thoughts, behaviors, and feelings.

We offer various therapeutic modalities, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), Mindfulness Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Somatic Therapy, and Hakomi Therapy to help you navigate your depression and reconnect with what brings you joy.

In the darkest moments, there is still light within you. Every person possesses an innate strength that can guide them through even the most challenging times. Building a support system, seeking professional help, regulating your emotions, and engaging in self-care activities can empower you to cultivate a greater sense of belonging and worth.

Let us walk alongside you, offering care, compassion, and guidance as you rediscover the beauty of life.

Therapy Alberta is a private group practice with psychologists, social workers, and counsellors offering trauma-informed individual, couples, teen, family and depression counselling in Calgary and across Alberta.


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