Depression is a common but serious mood disorder that can impact how you feel, think, and function. To be clinically depressed means experiencing persistent sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in activities for at least two weeks. It’s more than just feeling down for a few days.

Mind Unwind: A Guide to Recognize Depression Symptoms
Depths Of Depression – Shutterstock Image

Anyone can experience depression, regardless of who they are. While the exact causes are still being learned, they involve biological, genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. When you’re depressed, it can seem like you can’t control your mood or change how you feel. Daily tasks become difficult, and you may withdraw from friends and family, oversleep, overeat, or lack energy.

Severe depression can even involve suicidal thoughts. Thankfully, depression is highly treatable with lifestyle changes, therapy, medication, or a combination. This article explores depression and provides information to help those suffering recognize symptoms and seek care.

Melancholy: A feeling of pensive sadness

Early theories suggested that feeling deeply sad reflects unresolved mourning from our past, often relating to childhood.[1] Most don’t know what causes their persistent sadness, leading to self-criticism. Research found life’s difficulties, particularly in childhood, like trauma or loss, can result in sadness lingering if unaddressed. Hiding negative emotions also contributes to prolonged sadness. Talking through these feelings in therapy may help.[2]

So sadness stems from our history and how we manage emotions, not just present circumstances. This helped explain depression. When sad, emotions feel dull, and negative feelings intensify while positive emotions fade. People become highly sensitive to various negative feelings. Activities and social interactions that once brought joy no longer do, resulting in lost interest and motivation.

Depressive symptoms heighten awareness of social interactions. Relationships strain as the sad individual withdraws and sees things negatively. Deeper emotions underlie surface sadness, like hidden anger and mixed feelings.

The Science Behind Sorrow

Around 17% of men and 25% of women go through a major depressive episode in their lifetime. While not everyone encounters multiple episodes, recurrence is prevalent, affecting up to 60% of individuals with more than one lifetime depressive episode.[3]

Neuroscientists studied how feeling sad affects our brain. It seems that when we’re sad, the chemicals in our brain, like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which control our mood, get out of balance. The amygdala, dealing with negative feelings, is hyperactive. This imbalances emotions, making normal things seem negative.[4]

Over time, these can harm brain cells, affecting memory and learning. They also shrink the self-control prefrontal cortex. Knowing these changes explains why sadness feels overwhelming. Treatments can fix brain imbalances leading to suffering.

Symptoms of the Initial Stage of Depression

When you’re experiencing deep sadness or melancholy, it goes beyond affecting your emotions; it also influences your physical appearance and behaviors. Here’s a detailed look at the changes you might observe in a person who is on the verge of depression:

Brain And Memory

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  • Facial Expression: The usual brightness in your face may fade, replaced by a look of sadness or emptiness. Your responses to emotions might become less noticeable.
  • Speech: Communication may undergo changes, with speech slowing down, becoming softer, or adopting a monotone quality.
  • Energy Levels: Melancholy often brings an unexplained sense of physical exhaustion, making your movements sluggish and reducing overall motivation.
  • Self-Care: Taking care of yourself becomes challenging. Hygiene, dressing, and eating habits may be neglected due to a lack of interest or energy.
  • Weight Changes: Appetite and digestion can be impacted, leading to noticeable weight loss or gain.
  • Sleep Patterns: Melancholy disrupts normal sleep patterns, causing either insomnia or excessive sleep, contributing to feelings of persistent fatigue.
  • Physical Pain: In addition to emotional distress, melancholy may manifest as chronic pain or exacerbate existing medical conditions.
  • Coping Strategies: Some individuals might resort to substance abuse as a way to cope, attempting to numb both emotional and physical pain.
  • Social Withdrawal: There is a tendency to withdraw from social interactions and activities that were once enjoyable. Responsibilities may be neglected, contributing to a sense of isolation.

    When loved ones observe these signs, it serves as a clear indication that seeking professional help is essential to prevent the situation from worsening.

    Symptoms of Depression

    There are several core symptoms that characterize a depressive episode.

    Persistent Emotional Turmoil

    Individuals experiencing persistent emotional turmoil often feel as though they are trapped in a cycle of negative emotions that never seems to end. They may feel sad, anxious, or empty for much of the day, nearly every day, and have difficulty remembering what it feels like to be in a positive mood.

    This ongoing emotional distress can severely impact their motivation and ability to find enjoyment in life. Activities and hobbies that were once very meaningful and pleasurable no longer seem worthwhile. They may feel hopeless about their situation improving and helpless to change how they feel, believing their emotional pain will last forever.

    The emotional turmoil can dominate their thoughts and completely overwhelm their sense of well-being, making it difficult for them to function normally or care for themselves properly. Their outlook is often very negative and pessimistic.

    Emotional Disturbances

    Individuals experiencing emotional disturbances as part of depression may suffer from a variety of intense negative feelings that take both an emotional and cognitive toll. They are likely to view themselves in an overly critical light, feeling they are unworthy or defective in some way.

    This low self-esteem contributes to pervasive guilt over minor perceived failings. Additionally, they may struggle with irritability and have difficulty controlling feelings of anger and frustration, even over small issues. An inner restlessness also emerges, with an inability to feel calm or still. These emotional symptoms feed into each other, creating a vicious cycle that is difficult to escape.

    Low self-worth, guilt, irritability, and inner agitation combine to generate an almost constant underlying emotional strain. This emotional turmoil further exacerbates the overall depressed mood and mental health challenges.

    Cognitive Challenges

    Individuals experiencing cognitive challenges as part of depression often face difficulties with focus, decision-making, and thought patterns. They may find themselves unable to concentrate on tasks for long or stay focused on what they are doing. Even simple decisions become daunting, and they struggle to make up their minds.

    Additionally, negative thoughts frequently plague their minds. They are prone to overly critical self-talk and harsh self-judgments. Their internal mental dialogue puts them down and maintains low self-esteem. Thoughts about life and the future also take a pessimistic tone, with feelings that nothing will ever improve or get better.

    This negativity bias affects how they perceive themselves and their circumstances. The cognitive symptoms make it hard to think clearly or objectively and further fuel depressed moods. Together, these challenges form a self-perpetuating cycle of cognitive and emotional distress.

    Physical Manifestations

    Individuals experiencing depression often notice changes in their physical health and body that correspond with their low mood and mental state. Their appetite may increase or decrease significantly, resulting in unintended weight fluctuations.

    Sleep patterns are frequently disrupted, with difficulties falling or staying asleep as well as oversleeping. They commonly have little energy or motivation, feeling constantly fatigued even after adequate rest. Usual activities that require physical exertion become a challenge. Unexplained physical pains may also emerge, such as headaches, stomachaches, and muscle aches. The body reflects the psychological distress being experienced.

    These somatic symptoms compound the mental health issues, as the physical changes and discomforts exacerbate negative feelings. Together, the psychological and physical manifestations create a debilitating effect, making it arduous to carry out normal daily routines and self-care.

    Social Withdrawal and Impact on Daily Life

    Individuals experiencing depression often withdraw socially and isolate themselves from others. They may feel disconnected and lonely and lack the motivation to see friends or engage with family. This social withdrawal can extend to avoiding activities they previously found enjoyable.

    Brain And Memory

    Social Withdrawal and Impact on Life – Shutterstock Image

    As a result of this withdrawal and loss of interest in activities, their daily functioning becomes impaired. Managing responsibilities like work, school, chores, and self-care is more difficult. They may fall behind on tasks and obligations. Relationships can be negatively impacted as social interaction decreases. Performing well at work or school may become a challenge.

    Completing household chores and self-care needs like meals and hygiene are compromised. This impairment in daily life adds further stress and feeds the low mood. The social withdrawal and avoidance behaviors associated with depression make it nearly impossible to maintain normal routines and responsibilities.

    Serious Warning Signs

    When experiencing depression, having persistent thoughts of death or suicide is an extremely serious warning sign that requires prompt medical attention. Beyond just passive thoughts, actively thinking about ways to end one’s life or making specific plans to attempt suicide indicates a severe risk.

    Individuals may ruminate frequently about death or how they would take their own life. They may research lethal methods and means of harming themselves. Planning when, where, and how they would carry out suicide moves thoughts into dangerous territory that demands urgent help.

    These warning signs suggest immediate danger and a crisis state of mind. Putting any plan in motion, acquiring the means to attempt suicide, or leaving a suicide note also necessitates emergency intervention. Professional help must be sought without delay when serious warning signs like suicidal thoughts, ideation, or plans are present.

    It is important to discuss any prolonged changes in mood, thoughts, and behaviors with a healthcare provider for proper evaluation and treatment.

    Causes of Depression

    While depression can develop for various reasons, it is usually caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

    • Genetically, people with a family history of depression are more likely to experience it due to biological vulnerabilities passed down. Brain chemistry imbalances in neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine are also thought to play a role.[5]
    • Life stressors like trauma, loss, difficult relationships, and financial problems can trigger depressive episodes. Chronic stress takes a physical and mental toll over time.[6]
    • Personality traits such as pessimism, low self-esteem, and neuroticism are linked to depression as well. Early childhood experiences like abuse, neglect, or insecure attachment styles may shape one’s vulnerability.[7]
    • Medical conditions impacting hormones or other bodily systems can influence mood too. Postpartum changes, chronic illnesses, or certain medications are known triggers.

    While no one factor causes depression, understanding these internal and external influences helps explain why it affects so many people at various points in life. More research continues to uncover additional biological and environmental contributors.

    Coping Strategies

    Managing depression requires utilizing both professional treatment and self-care strategies. Seeing a mental health provider for therapy and/or medication is important. However, daily coping mechanisms can help alleviate symptoms and prevent relapse when adopted as lifestyle habits.

    Brain And Memory

    Depression Coping Strategies – Shutterstock Image

    • Regular exercise is clinically proven to boost mood, even if it starts small. Engaging in hobbies, creativity, religion, or spirituality provides fulfillment lacking in depression.
    • Maintaining social support through quality time with family and friends combats isolation.
    • Getting adequate sunlight, sleep, and nutrition fuels both the brain and the body. Journaling, meditation, and relaxation practices calm rumination.
    • Setting small, achievable daily goals with rewards prevents feelings of failure.
    • Limiting alcohol and recreational drugs, which depress the system further, is key. Challenging negative thoughts by evaluating evidence helps correct cognitive distortions.
    • Using positive and coping statements like “This is a temporary mood, not my identity,” can reframe perspective.

    According to Martin Stork, licensed psychologist and founder of Conquer Social Anxiety, the implementation of diaphragmatic breathing and physical exercise has been extremely effective. Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, inducing relaxation and lowering stress, while regular aerobic exercises enhance brain health and resilience, counteracting symptoms of anxiety and depression.

    While willpower alone can’t overcome depression, making lifestyle changes empowers sufferers to actively support their recovery process between treatments. Adopting multiple strategies increases the chances of remission.[8]

    Symptoms of Depressive Personality

    Some theorists propose that certain personality styles may predispose individuals to depression. A depressive personality involves long-standing traits that color one’s mood, thoughts, and behaviors even outside of depressive episodes.[9]

    General Symptoms

    There are a few basic symptoms that can be seen in everyone who is on the verge of depression. They are as follows:

    • People with depressive personalities tend to be highly self-critical, pessimistic, and guilt-prone.
    • They often have low self-esteem, originating from childhood. Dependency and fears of abandonment can also characterize these personalities.
    • In their actions, they might often act passively, struggle with making decisions, avoid taking risks, and tend to be reserved in social situations. They see the world with a tendency towards negativity, anticipating criticism from others. These behavioral traits can lead to conflicts in their relationships.
    • While a depressive personality does not guarantee depression will develop, it represents underlying vulnerabilities. Stressful life events can more easily trigger full-blown episodes in these individuals.

    It’s important not to pathologize normal responses or blame those with depression. However, recognizing personality patterns can help provide preventative strategies and catch depression early before it becomes chronic or severe. Therapy aims to build coping skills and challenge negative thought patterns.

    The Clutter-Depression-Anxiety Cycle

    This cycle describes how depression and anxiety can lead to a cluttered living environment, heightening negative feelings. Breaking free can be difficult, but taking action is key.

    For some, clutter becomes a physical representation of their inner emotional experience. Getting control of the clutter can help regain a sense of emotional and mental control as well. ~ Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist

    Clutter contributes significantly by overstimulating the senses with unnecessary visual and tactile stimuli, making relaxation hard. It acts as a constant distraction from an overwhelming to-do list, inducing anxiety. Research shows clutter hurts wellbeing by raising stress and lowering productivity.

    Living with clutter induces depression, anxiety, and stress, as it makes a clean home seem impossible. People may emotionally bond with clutter, accumulating more due to shame and disorganization. Not addressing emotions driving clutter helps sustain the cycle. Breaking it requires decluttering to cut overstimulation and overwhelm, plus treating any mental health issues fueling the mess. An organized home can improve mood and daily life.

    When Depression Can’t Be Cured, You Can Still Cope: Simple Coping Strategies

    For some, depression is chronic, despite treatment. Viewing it as an ongoing challenge, not a constant struggle, fosters better coping. Focus on managing daily symptoms, not just seeking a cure. Embrace small wins by adjusting expectations, not just aiming for remission. Identify triggers and early signs to stay ahead of episodes. Support groups reduce isolation by showing long-term coping possibilities. Prioritize self-care to build resilience and prevent burnout. Find purpose and fulfillment through acceptance, community, and wellness.

    Accepting depression as an ongoing challenge can help one cope better by adjusting expectations and focusing on managing symptoms day-to-day rather than waiting for full remission. ~ Dr. Randy Paterson, psychiatrist

    Coping with feelings of losing your mind, which can be associated with depression and anxiety, can be challenging, but there are actionable strategies to help manage these emotions. Based on the search results, here are some effective coping strategies:

  • Stay in Touch: Socializing and keeping in touch with friends and family can improve your mood and provide a support system when you feel low. It’s important not to withdraw from life and to maintain connections with others.
  • Exercise: Engaging in some form of exercise, even gentle activities like walking for 20 minutes a day, can help lift your mood. There is evidence that exercise can have a positive impact on mental well-being.
  • Face Your Fears: It’s important not to avoid the things that you find difficult. Facing challenging situations can help make them easier to manage, reducing feelings of anxiety and depression.
  • Healthy Lifestyle: Eating a healthy diet, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, and maintaining a regular sleep routine can contribute to overall well-being and help manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Seek Help: If you’re still feeling down or depressed after a couple of weeks, it’s important to seek help from a healthcare professional. Various treatments, including talking therapies and antidepressants, are available for depression.
  • Decluttering: Addressing clutter in your living environment can also be beneficial for managing feelings of anxiety and depression. Clutter can contribute to these feelings, so taking steps to declutter your space can have a positive impact on your mental well-being.
  • Conclusion:

    In closing, depression is a complex condition that manifests in many ways. While its causes are multi-factorial, with genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological components, there is hope for effective management and recovery.

    While depression presents ongoing challenges for some, with community support and a treatment plan focused on well-being rather than just symptoms, one can experience personal growth and resilience through even recurrent episodes over time. ~ Dr. Danielle Wadsworth, therapist

    Seeking medical help from mental healthcare providers is crucial, as both therapy and medication interventions have been shown to significantly relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. Complementing professional treatment with lifestyle modifications and daily coping strategies empowers individuals to actively support their own healing process as well.

    While depression will remain a challenge for some over the long term, accepting it as part of one’s journey can help reduce associated distress. With community support, ongoing self-care, crisis planning, and adaptation, it is possible to not only cope with but thrive despite periods of melancholy. Continuing advancements in science and care ensure brighter futures for all touched by mental disturbances.

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    9 Sources

    We review published medical research in respected scientific journals to arrive at our conclusions about a product or health topic. This ensures the highest standard of scientific accuracy.

    [1] Mourning and Melancholia: Freud’s Thoughts on Loss:
    [2] Sadness as an integral part of depression:
    [3] Stress, sex hormones, inflammation, and major depressive disorder: Extending Social Signal Transduction Theory of Depression to account for sex differences in mood disorders:
    [4] Reproductive hormone sensitivity and risk for depression across the female life cycle: A continuum of vulnerability?:
    [5] Genetics Factors in Major Depression Disease:
    [6] Stressful Life Events and Depression Symptoms: The Effect of Childhood Emotional Abuse on Stress Reactivity:
    [7] Childhood abuse and vulnerability to depression: Cognitive scars in otherwise healthy young adults:
    [8] Treatment-resistant depression:
    [9] Personality and Depressive Symptoms: Individual-Participant Meta-Analysis of 10 Cohort Studies:
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    Adriana Albritton

    Adriana Albritton is the author of 28 Days to a New Life - A Holistic Program to Get Fit, Delay Aging, and Enhance Your Mindset. She is