Depression is more than just a low mood. And, especially with guys, the presentation can be so unusual, that it doesn’t look like depression at all. Even your doctor could miss the diagnosis!
Here are some of the uncommon and overlooked symptoms of the condition. Recognise the signs:
1. A short fuse
For most, depression equals severe sadness, but can also manifest as being short-tempered or snapping at others. In the same way that some people with depression find themselves crying without knowing why, others may find themselves irritable and angry without understanding it. According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, 54% of people with depression feel hostile, grumpy, argumentative, foul-tempered, or angry. While it’s typically seen in men and teens, a quick temper can affect anyone.
2. Aches and pains
Unexplained pain could be a red flag for depression – that is, if there’s no medical diagnosis for the pain. A study in the journal Pain, found that people with depression are four times more likely to have intense or disabling neck and lower back pain than those without. Headaches, stomach cramps, digestive problems, stiffness, or greater sensitivity to pain in general may also be linked to depression.
3. Trouble making decisions.
Can’t decide what to wear today? Not sure what to eat for breakfast? Depression may be to blame. Depression can be mentally distressing and energy-sapping, which can take a hit on your cognitive performance. You may find that simple, mundane decisions you wouldn’t normally think twice about become weighty or seem paralysing.
Occasional boredom is normal, but if you’ve lost interest in something you once enjoyed, be concerned. The sadness that comes with depression often goes hand-in-hand with the inability to feel pleasure. Things stop sounding fun and may not seem worth the effort anymore. You slowly start to drop activities, and turn to less demanding tasks like watching TV or sleeping.
4. Rapid weight changes
Weight loss is usually greeted with happiness by most. But unintentional and substantial weight loss over a short period could be a symptom of depression, since the condition can suppress your appetite. You may find yourself going from eating three meals to only one a day. On the flip side, depression can also rev up your appetite and cause you to binge eat, which can lead to significant weight gain and feelings of guilt and shame.
Don’t ignore the symptoms – take them seriously. Don’t wait and hope that they will go away. Depression can be damaging and even fatal if left untreated. Get professional help as soon as possible. The majority of people who seek treatment will be helped, says the South African Depression and Anxiety Group.
Speak to your doctor. He/she will do a physical exam to evaluate any underlying illness which may be causing or worsening your depression. A treatment plan will then be set up to tackle immediate symptoms and long-term help.
If you need urgent help, contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group. To contact a counsellor between 8am-8pm Monday to Sunday, call: 011 234 4837. You can also try their 24-hour helpline: 0800 12 13 14.
Take care of yourself
- Follow a healthy, balanced diet to get enough B-complex vitamins, amino acids, and minerals. Without enough B-vitamins, minerals, protein, and carbohydrates, your nervous system can’t function properly. This, in turn, can also lead to depression.
- Enjoy a variety of foods.
- Make starchy foods part of most of your meals.
- Choose unprocessed grains and starchy vegetables like butternut and sweet potato.
- Fish, chicken, lean meat or eggs can be eaten daily.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day (at least five portions in total).
- Add dry beans, split peas, lentils or soya to your diet.
- Have milk or yoghurt every day (choose low-fat products).
- Use salt sparingly.
- Eat fats sparingly, and choose vegetable oils rather than hard fats.
- Go easy on sugary foods and drinks.
- Drink lots of clean, safe water.
- Get active. Regular exercise releases endorphins, which can bring on a sense of relief and contentment. All it takes is a 30-minute session to get your fix. Try walking, jogging or cycling.
- Try deep breathing exercises like meditation. New research published in Translational Psychiatry found that when meditation and aerobic exercise were done together twice a week for eight weeks, depressive symptoms and overwhelming negative thoughts were reduced by 40%.
- Keep a mood diary to figure out triggers that set off depressive feelings. Go back and regularly read your entries to track your trigger points and find ways of arresting those feelings before they hit.
- Get involved in volunteer work to help bring on positive feelings of worth and value. Studies have shown that volunteering helps you feel more socially connected, which can ward off loneliness and depression.