When you think of depression, you might imagine someone who has totally given up on their life, who can't get out of bed, or who never makes it to work. And while that can definitely happen with major depression, there are subtle signs of mild depression that can be debilitating in their own way.
This is especially true since mild depression often goes undiagnosed, and therefore untreated. As corporate wellness coach Jessica May Tang says, "... the symptoms are usually labeled as 'normal mood swings' since we can still function, but just not as well as we do when we are healthy. There is an impact on our daily activities ... and we find ourselves less interested in doing the things that used to bring joy."
While I'm not trying to compare it to the loss of function that comes with major depression — which is something that often lasts longer than six months — mild depression is still worth treating. If you feel a bit "off" or find yourself caught up in some of the habits below, it may be time to chat with a therapist. There are plenty of things you can do to feel better and get your life back on track. Read on for some signs it may be time to do just that.
1. You're Snacking Way More Often
Appetite changes can be a sign of depression, Tang tells me. So pay attention to your sudden desire to snack — especially if you're craving lots of comfort foods (donuts, fries, pizza, etc). While it's OK to have these foods occasionally, eating them 24/7 may your (unhealthy) way of dealing with negative feelings.
2. You're All About That Third Drink
While there's nothing wrong with having a drink after dinner, it's not exactly normal to push the limits every single night, therapist Jennifer Soos tells me. If you find yourself pouring a second or third drink — especially if it's to help you "calm down" or get to sleep — it may be that you're struggling with depression.
3. You Stay In The Shower For Forever
Warm showers are comforting AF, so if you're feeling depressed, it makes perfect sense why you'd want to soak in the steam for forever. As Tang says, it's a feel-good type of self care. But it's also an easy way to numb your painful feelings.
4. You Can't Be Bothered To Brush Your Teeth
On the flip side of your shower habit, you may find yourself going to bed without brushing your teeth, or skipping out on your usual skincare regimen, Soos tells me. Depression has a way of making these little habits seem impossible, so take note if you suddenly can't be bothered.
5. You Want (Or Need) More Sleep
Depression can really mess with your sleep, either by keeping you up all night long, or making it impossible to get out of bed. Sleep is also a way of turning your brain off and/or giving you something to do, licensed psychotherapist Karen R. Koenig tells me. If it's become your go-to "hobby," something might be up.
6. You Really Want To Call In Sick
Everyone needs a mental health day, and it's OK to occasionally call in sick if you're feeling overwhelmed. But if it's become a habit, or if taking a day off is all you can think about, it may be due to underlying depression, Soos tells me.
7. You Slip Back Into Dirty Clothes
I'm a huge fan of pushing the limits with my dirty jeans, and I've been known to wear a shirt twice (or three times) before washing it. But sometimes, wearing dirty clothes can get a bit out of hand. If you find yourself not caring, or showing up to work in super wrinkled clothes, it may be time to check in with yourself, psychologist Robin Hornstein tells me.
8. You've Stopped Cleaning Your Apartment
It's total normal to leave a cereal bowl on the table for a day or two. But take note if your place is starting to fall apart. As Hornstein says, "... having a house with no mold, nothing that smells, and living flowers and plants is certainly an external demonstration of a lack of concern about oneself."
9. You Spend All Day Online
I'm obsessed with Instagram, and definitely check Facebook on the daily. But I know I'm feeling down if it's the only thing I want to do. As licensed clinical social worker Lynn R. Zakeri tells me, zoning out like this online (or in front of the TV) is a type of "numbing behavior," and one that's definitely a red flag for depression.
10. You Live For Cancelled Plans
There's something so nice about the occasional cancelled plan. It means staying in, putting on sweatpants, and doing your own thing. But if you live for those cancelled plans, it may be because you're down in the dumps. When you aren't feeling well, it may cause you to isolate yourself, therapist Craig Foust tells me. And that ain't good.
11. You're Feeling More Negative Than Usual
How's that head of yours? If it's full of negativity and depressing self-talk, it may be due to a mild case of depression. "These may be consistent, self-deprecating comments or even thoughts you have when doing every day tasks," licensed psychologist Dr. Maelisa Hall tells Bustle. If you're convinced you suck, or feel like you can't do anything right, take note.
12. You Can't Stop Shopping Online
While there's nothing wrong with getting yourself the occasional prezzie, it definitely shouldn't become your only hobby. If it has, it may be that you're looking to fill a hole in your life, author and stress management expert Debbie Mandel tells me. Shopping offers a quick high that can help ease depression, but it shouldn't become a habit.
13. You Catch Yourself Spacing Out
While spaciness happens to the best of us, it shouldn't feel overwhelming. So if you can't remember how you got to work, or if your go-to facial expression has become a blank stare, Soos tells me it may be time to chat with a therapist.
14. You Suddenly Want To Be Super Busy
Depression is often difficult to face, which is why many people who deal with it would just rather... not. "People will often stay busy to avoid thinking about what is really going on in their life," says licensed psychotherapist Latrice McNeal, in an email to Bustle. If you truly can't be alone with your thoughts, it may be worth getting checked out.
15. You've Been Procrastinating More Than Ever
Everyone procrastinates from time to time. But if it's become your new "hobby," it may be due to underlying depression. "Any degree of depression can lower motivation to work toward goals or to accomplish tasks," Jesse D. Matthews, Psy.D, tells Bustle. "Procrastination is about avoidance, and when we feel depressed we may be more likely to avoid things that are work or that we don't really want to do."
If any of these sound familiar, it may be worth chatting with a therapist. Mild depression can be fixed, so don't wait another minute to feel better.
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