Sometimes, depression can creep up on us in unexpected and subtle ways. Learn about these unusual symptoms
Depression is one of the most prominent mental health conditions worldwide, and it’s likely that if you haven’t experienced it yourself, someone close to you has.
For some, depression can be something that affects them in the short-term, following a distressing event or a loss, while for others it can stay with them for long periods of time, becoming something that they live alongside.
When it comes to mental health conditions, while we may experience them in different ways, there are often some unifying factors that connect these experiences. Depression comes in many forms, and sometimes it can sneak up on us without us realising. But when we are able to watch out for the signs, we can get support sooner.
So, how can you spot it? Here, we explore 12 things you may not have realised could be symptoms of depression.
1. A sense of apathy
To feel apathetic is to lose interest, enthusiasm, or concern for the things that would normally spark something inside you. It may be a work project that you were once really invested in, or perhaps friendships and relationships that are now sidelined – messages going unread and meet-ups cancelled at the last minute.
Depression can make everything feel a lot heavier, and like a lot more effort. And with that, a feeling of apathy can make its way into your day-to-day life.
2. Physical pain
Sometimes, physical pain can cause depression – particularly if it’s ongoing or chronic. But other times, depression can actually cause physical pain. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, depression can sometimes manifest itself in joint, limb, and back pain, as well as headaches and gastrointestinal problems.
The neurotransmitters that influence both our mood and pain levels are serotonin and norepinephrine – and so it makes sense that our mental and physical health would be linked in this way.
3. Change in your appetite
Whether it’s eating more than you usually would, or finding that you don’t have much of an appetite, depression and low mood can often affect how much you feel like eating.
Of course, changes in appetite could be related to other mental health problems such as eating disorders, as well as other medical conditions – so if you have any concerns, it’s important to speak to your GP. But if you’ve found that your mood has been low and your appetite has changed, these two things could be linked.
4. Trouble falling asleep
Do you find yourself tossing and turning at night? Or waking up at intervals or in the early hours of the morning? Every night, 22% of people reportedly struggle to fall asleep, and many of these cases are likely to be connected to mental health problems.
And the trouble with sleep issues? They can catch you in a vicious cycle, with poor sleep leading to stress and frustration, which can then be another thing keeping you up at night.
5. Difficulty concentrating
It may be due to a mixture of other symptoms coming together, including sleep problems and apathy, but our concentration can falter when experiencing depression. You could find that your mind wanders more than it would do normally, that you are struggling to get through tasks, or are battling with ‘brain fog’, and this could be linked to low mood.
6. Lethargy cycle
Linked to the previous point on sleep, a lethargy cycle can spiral into something that you can struggle to escape from. Are you familiar with the feeling of being tired after oversleeping? This is where it all begins.
Perhaps you have been experiencing low mood, which leads you to stay in bed for longer than usual in the morning. When you get up, you feel groggy and fatigued, and so you go to bed early or lie-in again – and the pattern repeats itself. This is a lethargy cycle, and it has the potential to take over your routines and wellbeing.
7. Anger or irritability
It’s often noted that anger can be a more prominent symptom in men who are experiencing depression. Of course, though there may be some truth to this, when it comes to gender and mental health, it’s complicated, and ultimately all genders may find that they experience a greater level of anger, frustration, and irritability.
It could be aimed towards ourselves – frustration about not currently being able to function as we wish to – or it could be towards others, as our tolerance threshold is lowered by our state of wellbeing. Whatever direction the anger manifests itself, depression can make us lash out in ways we wouldn’t do usually.
8. Often forgetting the finer details of events
According to a study published in the French journal L’Encéphale, those who are living with depression may find that they have trouble remembering the specific details from events.
For example, you may remember going out on a day-trip – you can recall where you went, but you might find yourself forgetting who you went with, where you had lunch, or what the weather was like. This can also make its way into your daily life, perhaps forgetting house keys or leaving lights on. That said, if you find that you are forgetting more and more things, it could be worth speaking to your GP.
9. Better recall of negative events
On the other hand, a study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry found that those with depression might experience “negative memory biases”. This means that they are more easily able to recall negative memories – difficult times stick with them in more detail than those who have not experienced depression. Perhaps there is an upsetting incident that you continue to return to, or “bad days” stick in your mind.
10. Skin problems
In a similar way to physical pain, skin problems can both cause and be an effect of depression. Psychodermatology is the study of how the mind and skin work with (and sometimes against) each other. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that more than one-third of those with skin conditions go on to have psychiatric consultations. Whether it’s acne, eczema, psoriasis, or dry skin, depression could be playing a role in these symptoms.
11. Increased anxiety
Depression and anxiety often come hand-in-hand with each other, and it can sometimes be difficult to separate the two. While many of the symptoms are distinct from one another, others do overlap (irritability, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disruptions, for example) and you could observe that they feed into one another.
You could find that you are experiencing anxiety specifically about your depression – how it’s affecting your life, and whether you will be able to accomplish things that need to be done while you are struggling.
12. Feelings of guilt
Depression can sometimes bring with it a mound of guilt – perhaps around not be able to perform your duties at work, or about neglecting your relationships. As with the other symptoms here, this can only make you feel worse, and it’s worth remembering that it’s OK to let some things slide when you’re struggling – not every text, email, or call needs a reply within the hour.
In addition, depression could be making you harder on yourself, your self-image skewed by low mood, so it’s worth reaching out to others for reassurance and affirmation if this is something you’re struggling with.
If you are struggling with depression, know that you do not need to do it alone. There are helplines you can call for immediate support, visit your GP, or head to Counselling Directory to connect with a wellbeing professional.