Depression is often described as a feeling of overwhelming sadness. However, there are many other subtle signs that indicate a depressive episode is looming in the future. Learning to identify the symptoms of depression will help you to understand the stages of depression, ultimately, helping you understand what the illness is.
If you are suffering from depression, learning more about the illness will help you to be prepared and deal with it better. You may even learn to identify when you’re going into a depressive episode and be able to alert friends and family.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression?
Before understanding the different stages of depression you need to know the most common symptoms of this disease. Some are continuous while others are introduced progressively in time, marking the different stages.
The most common symptoms of depression are:
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Inability to remember details, short-term memory issues.
- Difficulty making decisions.
- Feelings of guilt.
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
- Sleeping too much.
- Easily irritated.
- No appetite.
- Loss of interest in activities (hobbies, sex, etc).
- Digestive issues.
- Feelings of emptiness.
- Feeling anxious.
- Thoughts of suicide.
As you can see, the symptoms vary from barely noticeable to extreme. This is why identifying the stages of depression is so important. It helps you to recognize when a depressive episode is going to occur.
Stages of depression: step-by-step into darkness
With each stage, depression becomes harder and harder to fight as each phase is marked by the worsening of the symptoms. That’s why it’s important to recognize the different stages as quickly as possible to be able to act or help someone before this illness takes completely over.
Please note: fatigue and digestive issues may occur throughout any stages of depression. They are persistent, as is the lack of interest in anything. These are three of the most common symptoms of depression, but are often dismissed as a “bad mood”. These are the warning signs to look for.
Typically, the first stage of depression is a lack of interest in things that were once enjoyable.
A person may start to withdraw from friends and family. They may feel lethargic, like nothing really matters. It will seem cynical at first and like nothing too serious.
It’s soon followed by issues with sleep and food. A person could eat too much or stop eating. A person can sleep all day and night or have trouble sleeping at all. These issues will need to be approached, as both are necessary for good health.
The next stage of depression begins to affect memory and decision-making abilities.
A person suffering from depression may not be able to concentrate, even on simple tasks. They may “daze out” frequently and seem to be aloof. You may find it hard to communicate with someone in this stage.
A person suffering from depression may forget simple things, including the activity they are presently engaged in. Important dates will not register in their memory either. They will need to be reminded of any engagements they may have.
In this stage, many people who suffer from depression tend to call in sick to work and social events. They completely withdraw from the world because they find it too hard to socialize or even communicate. They are easily irritated by simple things, so they spend all of their time alone.
The next stage of depression is when it starts to get serious. A person will begin to feel they are worthless or would be better off dead.
A person may feel guilty for being a burden to friends and family. Self-blame is common at this stage, even if the person knows it is the illness. It is easy to lose sight of the logistics when a person is in stage 3.
This stage includes feelings of overwhelming sadness, thoughts of suicide, self-harm and may include suicide attempts. This is when help is needed the most. Treatment from a medical professional may be required to lessen or eliminate thoughts of self-harm.
Depression does not affect everyone equally. There are different levels of depression, ranging from mild to severe.
A person can suffer from only depression or depression can be alongside other mental illness, such as bipolar disorder. Understanding all variables is important to understand an individual’s depressive episodes.
Family history also plays a role in depression, since it can be hereditary. A medical evaluation is critical to ensure the best outcome for every individual.
Many people who suffer from depression require medication to balance the chemicals in their brain. This helps them to fight this illness without feeling drained all the time. Depression can also be alleviated using home remedies, such as essential oils and supplements.
Don’t play it down
The most important thing for anyone to understand about depression is: there is no cure. Depression is an illness. Like any other illness, it can slowly eat away at a person.
Medication and supplements may help, but they are not going to cure someone of this illness. The best tool for the war against depression is knowledge and understanding. By learning about the illness, you can be prepared.
Check out the testimony of Andrew Solomon in a TED Talk conference, where he explains the evolution of his own illness and how he could understand the symptoms but not controlling this own thoughts and will. And eventually, how he manages to leave the darkness and enjoy life again.