What are the warning signs of depression?
Published Oct 27, 2023 • By Candice Salomé
Depression is an illness that greatly affects patients' daily lives and quality of life.
It affects everyone differently. But certain signs and symptoms, listed in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), can help spot the signs of depression so that it can be prevented before it takes over.
So what exactly is depression? What are the warning signs of depression or of its relapse? What can be done to treat depression quickly?
We explain it all in our article!
What is depression?
Depression is a mental illness, and should not be confused with a bout of low spirits or temporary sadness. It is one of the most common mental illnesses, and may develop at any age, but is more common in adults.
Depression is characterized by a general disturbance of mood and leads to a pessimistic view of the world and of oneself.
It lasts for more than two weeks and has a significant impact on daily life: loss of appetite, loss of sexual desire, loss of sleep, loss of intellectual performance, isolation, loss of pleasure, sadness, etc.
Depression cannot be cured by willpower alone; it must be taken care of, in order to prevent it from becoming complicated or chronic.
Depression is caused by complex interactions between social, psychological and biological factors. Certain life events, such as childhood adversity, bereavement or unemployment, may trigger depression.
What are the first signs of depression or of its relapse?
Depression tends to set in gradually and it is possible to spot its first signs and symptoms.
The first signs of depression generally appear between 3 and 6 weeks before developing into full-blown depression.
Here are the warning signs of depression:
- Sleep disorders such as insomnia, often with early awakening around 4am. Sleep can also be fragmented and unrecoverable.
- Decreased libido, manifested by less frequent sexual intercourse, which gradually becomes a source of anxiety. People who experience this often find it difficult to talk about it and tend to attribute the decline to fatigue.
- Lack of energy and motivation that is compensated for by feverish hyperactivity. The person affected will try to do everything without seeing anything through.
- Mood disorders, often manifested by impulsiveness and irritability, which tend to make the sufferer feel guilty. Occasionally, the person may experience a certain form of intolerance and disproportionate anger over minor everyday problems.
- Sensory abnormalities such as intolerance to noise (at levels previously well tolerated). There may also be a change in taste, which may be wrongly attributed to lack of appetite.
- Change in general behavior that can be perceived by those around the person. This tends to increase anxiety, and the patient may have the impression that they are no longer the same person. This anxiety may lead to an increase in the consumption of alcohol (or another substance), which may become the beginning of a vicious circle.
- Somatization: the suffering, which is difficult to express verbally, is then passed on to the body in the form of headaches, digestive problems, joint pain, etc.
If you recognize yourself in one or more of these signs suggestive of a depressive disorder, see your doctor, who will be able to refer you to a psychiatrist, to establish the right diagnosis and help you manage your depression.
How can depression be treated quickly and effectively?
If your GP or psychiatrist diagnoses depression, it is better to follow their advice and start taking care of yourself.
After assessing the symptoms and the severity of depression, your doctor may suggest a low-dose antidepressant or any other treatment that can improve the symptoms and sleep quality, in particular.
Follow-up is essential in the management of depression. If people choose to isolate themselves and not talk about their symptoms, depression can have a number of consequences, including:
- Relapse: depressive episodes can follow one another, with periods of improvement becoming shorter and shorter. If the patient follows the doctor's recommendations, the risk of a relapse is reduced.
- Residual symptoms: when the patient's depression improves, certain problems may persist, such as sleep disorders, eating disorders, fatigue, anxiety, low self-esteem, etc.
- Chronic depression: if the symptoms of depression persist for more than 2 years, it becomes chronic depression.
- Suicidal ideations (suicidal thoughts): when the risk of suicide is high, emergency hospitalization is often necessary.
The warning signs of depression generally appear between 3 and 6 weeks before depression sets in. Warning signs include insomnia, loss of appetite, loss of libido, problems concentrating and remembering things, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, etc.
When you experience one or more of these symptoms, don't hesitate to see your GP or a psychiatrist as soon as possible. They will be able to make a diagnosis and find the right treatment.
If you wait for a long time or do nothing about the symptoms mentioned above, it is possible that depression will get more severe, and have serious consequences on your life.
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