Warning Signs of a Depressive Episode

By Kai Conibear,
updated on Dec 4, 2018

Warning Signs of a Depressive Episode

Depression is sneaky, often creeping up on you when you least expect it. But it’s also illogical, and can strike us when we’re at our happiest. Being aware of the warning signs to watch out for could be crucial in making sure you get help and support sooner than later

According to the NHS, one in 10 of us are affected by depression at some point in our lives, but alongside clinical depression, it can manifest in other forms such as postnatal depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder. The important thing is to be aware of the warning signs of depression, to get support as soon as possible.

As I don’t always realise I’m becoming depressed, I rely on my partner and close family and friends to keep an eye out for the warning signs. While I’m much better than I used to be at spotting a difference in my mood, I still occasionally miss a change that’s obvious to someone else. Knowing these signs has made me feel more in control of my mental illness, and allows me to take action and seek help before I find myself in crisis.

1. Feeling tired

Fatigue is one of the first signs of depression; sleep no longer feels refreshing, which leaves you feeling constantly tired and wanting more rest. You may feel like sleeping during the day, or go to bed much earlier than normal. At the opposite extreme, you may experience insomnia, or wake in the early hours of the morning.

Tiredness can lead to concentration problems, forgetfulness, and trouble making decisions that can, in turn, impact your work and day-to-day life. Personally, I can feel like I’m walking around in a haze, constantly thinking about when I can finally go to bed.

Something you would normally brush off, or ignore, now feels incredibly irritating and frustrating

2. Irritability

You may find yourself losing your temper at the smallest annoyance. Something you would normally brush off, or ignore, now feels incredibly irritating and frustrating. To others, we can be noticeably more difficult to be around, and short tempered. Someone eating too loudly, people walking slowly and taking up the whole pavement, or even not being able to find my hairbrush, are all real-life examples that have left me seething and ready to snap.

3. A change in appetite

Your appetite may suddenly change completely; either you want to eat everything in sight, or nothing at all. Since anxiety and depression often coincide, with a high level of anxiety leaving many people feeling nauseous and unable to eat, inevitably depression can lead to weight gain or weight loss – which in turn impacts our self-esteem. Sometimes depression can also cause digestive problems.

4. A lack of motivation

This isn’t just an “off” day, this is when your motivation disappears for days or weeks on end. As with a lack of concentration, having no “get up and go” often affects your work or studies. It will feel like slogging up an endless mountain to complete a project, or go for that run, or exercise at the gym. For me, my drive and positivity can go out the window – all I want to do is curl up on the sofa and watch TV.

5. Socialising less

While some of us are social butterflies, and others prefer some personal space, we all enjoy seeing friends and family to some degree. When depressed, we might feel we have nothing to say, or can’t manage being in a social situation.

When depressed, we might feel we have nothing to say, or can’t manage being in a social situation.

I enjoy going out and socialising, so it’s blatantly obvious that something is wrong when I turn down an invitation, or don’t show up to an event. I’ll feel a knot in the pit of my stomach at the idea of socialising, but without seeing friends and family we can become isolated and lonely, which causes our mood to negatively spiral even further.

6. No longer enjoying favourite activities

When depressed, often the hobbies that once filled us with pleasure no longer have the same effect, which leaves us with an empty feeling – a common complaint of those with depression. I’m usually a creative person, but I find as depression creeps up on me I have no impetus to paint, sketch, or write. Your relationship with your partner may also change, as many people will lose their interest in sex.

What to do if you think you might be depressed

Depression is not just about being sad, but is a myriad of feelings of helplessness, guilt, and hopelessness that will become progressively worse if you don’t seek help. If you’re worried that you may be depressed, please make an appointment to see your GP. With depression, I find it more difficult than I normally do to express how I’m feeling, and to get my point of view across, so I make notes or bring someone with me. It means you won’t feel rushed and pressured to explain everything.

Alongside speaking to your GP, you can visit nhs.uk for more information.

If you are struggling with your mental health and need to talk, professional support may help. Use the bar below to enter your location and find a counsellor in your area:

By Kai Conibear

Kai Conibear is a writer and mental health advocate. His first book, ‘Living at the Speed of Light’, about bipolar disorder, is out now.'

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