Am I Depressed? 7 Signs Your "Off Days" May Be Something More, According To Experts
Everybody goes through rough times — instances where it seems like nothing is going right for you and you just want to curl up in bed, alone for hours watching TV. And while it's totally normal and OK to feel down sometimes, it's also important to recognize when there might be a pattern to the days where you feel lower than usual. We often chalk up these sad feelings to just another "off day," but there are instances where, if you find yourself feeling detached and upset often, your "off days" might actually be signs of depression.
"We’ve all had bad days," Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, and host of “The Kurre and Klapow Show,” tells Bustle. "Days where things are clicking, where we aren’t firing on all cylinders, where we feel out of balance. Most of the time those days happen every now and then and last for a day or two. But it’s possible that if we string those off days together and we add up the symptoms of feeling 'off' — we may be talking about something that is more than having an off day." For anyone who might be experiencing more than a few "off days," here are seven signs you might be suffering from depression, according to experts.
1. You Have Trouble Concentrating
It's easy for anyone to become distracted during tasks. But if you constantly notice that you can't stay focused on certain things you're doing despite your efforts to concentrate, it could be an indicator of a bigger problem. "With depression, thoughts and trains of thought frequently drift off," Klapow says. "Our ability to focus in is muted and we find our minds wandering. We can’t get dialed into anything for any period of time. This is also a primary sign of depression." Your distraction can be rooted in a lack of motivation to complete a task or a feeling that there's no point to it. This is something you should bring up to a mental health expert or therapist to see if it might be a sign of depression.
2. You Feel No Motivation
It's common to have days when you don't feel like trying as hard at tasks as you usually do. But if you see a continued pattern of not having the desire to do anything, you could be suffering from depression. Klapow describes this as not just disliking the task at hand for the day, but losing motivation for most things in general.
"Things that used to make us excited are just not there and we can’t seem to get ourselves 'up' for them," he says. "For individuals with depression this is called anhedonia. It is a feeling that nothing is interesting, nothing is appealing, and despite our best efforts we can’t seem to get motivated for activities of any kind." It's difficult to experience any real quality of life without feeling interested in anything you're doing, so if you think you may be experiencing this symptom, talk to a therapist about what it might mean.
3. You Constantly Feel Irritable
Sometimes things piss us off — that's just life. But if you find yourself quickly becoming tempered or getting upset at everything for prolonged periods of time, it could be a sign of depression.
"Often people don’t associate irritability with depression, but many individuals experience depression as irritability versus sadness," Klapow says. "They don’t feel sad or blue but they do feel perpetually irritable and cranky." So if you think that just because you feel continued anger rather than sadness you don't have depression, you can be mistaken. Talk to a therapist about when you started noticing yourself feeling more angry, so that you can find out if there's a particular event that's causing it or if you might have depression.
4. You Feel Especially Fatigued
As you get older, you've probably noticed you get tired more easily. And that happens to everyone. But, your fatigue can be a sign of depression if you start to feel it all the time or can't pinpoint exactly why you're feeling tired.
"It’s not about having an afternoon coffee — we literally feel tired and our movement seems to be slower," Klapow says. "Nothing seems to be moving at the pace it has in the past. In the case of depression, this feeling tired and slow is called psychomotor retardation. Our bodies just aren’t moving at their normal speed. It’s like we are moving through a thick fog that slows everything down." If you're just tired, getting more sleep or eating nutrient-rich food can remediate this issue. But if nothing seems to be working, it's important you talk to a mental health expert to see if depression is playing a part in your fatigue.
5. You Feel Hopeless About The Future
It can be hard to be positive all the time. But constantly feeling the opposite can be a cause of concern. If you feel as though there is no hope for your future, and feel this way continuously, you could be experiencing depression.
"We think about the rest of the day and tomorrow and the next and things just don’t feel like they are going to get better," Klapow says of people with depression. "We know they are — but we don’t feel it — we can’t feel it. In depression this same symptom is part of the negative triad. We feel hopeless about ourselves, about those around us and about our future." If you don't see hope for the future, it can be difficult getting through every day or find purpose to get things done. If you feel like this, talk to a mental health expert immediately, to see if there are actions you should take to alleviate your feelings.
6. You Have No Appetite
Sometimes, food doesn't seem as appetizing as it might on any other day. This can happen when you're sick, tired, or just in a bad mood. But if you've noticed that you haven't been eating like you usually do and food just doesn't seem appealing at all, you might be suffering from depression. "Our appetite isn’t there — nothing sounds good to eat," Klapow says. "It could be a stomach issue or in the case of depression, our slowed movement and slowed metabolism slows our appetite and we lose the desire to eat like we used to." This loss of appetite can be dangerous if it leads to a loss in weight, and so it's important to see a mental health expert immediately so that you can determine what the cause of your lack of appetite is.
7. You're Not Sleeping Well
Sleeping problems can be caused by a number of things — insomnia, stress, sickness, or a change in eating habits. If you're consistently not sleeping well, it doesn't mean you necessarily have depression, but if you experience it along with other symptoms, it could be an indicator. Klapow explains that when we're depressed, our sleep suffers. "We are tossing and turning, we are oversleeping, or we get up early in the morning when we don’t want to," he says. "Depression impacts our sleep-wake cycles. We can feel difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or getting good quality sleep." And if the problems are in fact persistent, it's important to talk to an expert to determine if you have depression.
"Sometimes we have more than one of these experiences," Klapow says. "Sometimes we might have all of them. But if we are having multiple experiences like these over the course of a couple of weeks or more and they don’t seem to fade on their own [...] then these off day symptoms may actually be [...] clinical depression."
Whatever you may think the cause is, if you experience these symptoms, it's important you talk to a mental health professional so that you can figure out what's going on, and determine the best action to help it.
Editor's Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.