5 major signs of depression

One-in-seven people in the world live with a mental health condition, depression being among the most common. While no age group or gender is immune to depression, it's important to differentiate the more severe symptoms of depression from commonplace mood changes. Learn five key signs that may indicate a person suffering from depression.

1.Prolonged low mood

Characterized by sadness, anxiety, low self-esteem and frustration, low mood is the most common symptom of depression and can occur independent of life's stresses. That is, you can experience sadness and hopelessness even if everything in your life seems to be going well.

2. Changes in appetite

Overeating or eating too little can suggest the presence of depression. Some people turn to food for comfort. They eat to improve or avoid negative feelings, like sadness, shame, and self-loathing. Many people crave carbohydrates or comfort foods, such as ice cream and cake, when they're depressed. This is because foods high in carbs and sugar increase serotonin levels, a brain chemical that elevates mood.

On the flip side, a loss of appetite may also be a sign of depression. Some people eat less and even skip meals due to low mood. Remember having no desire to eat during an exam but feeling hungry right after the exam? Stress and anxiety also play a role in reducing appetite. When we're stressed, our body goes into "fight or flight" mode and releases adrenaline, a hormone that prepares us for vigorous activity but also minimizes our desire to eat.

3. Sleep problems

Depression and sleep are closely connected. Insomnia and depression often go hand-in-hand. Patients may find it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep during the night, or wake up much earlier than hoped. Problems that lead to sleep disturbances include anxiety, stress, panic attacks, flashbacks, and nightmares.

Sleeping too much can be just as unhealthy as sleeping too little. It is perfectly normal to wake up tired in the morning after a late night. But if you struggle to climb out of bed after getting a full night's sleep, it may be a sign of depression. Some patients experience excessive daytime sleepiness or sleep too much (i.e., hypersomnia), which may be due to a lack of motivation to start the day or a lower quality of sleep.

4. Poor concentration

We often think of depression as making someone feel "down," but it can sometimes show up as cognitive symptoms. Depression increases levels of cortisol, which can weaken parts of the brain linked to memory and learning. Understandably, if you suffer from poor sleep, are preoccupied by negative thoughts and feelings of hopelessness, then your concentration is bound to be diminished. Patients may not be able to focus when giving or receiving direction, which results in misunderstandings at home, work, or school, and in turn can affect stress levels and fuel the vicious cycle of anxiety in depression.

5. Self-neglect

Looking after ourselves, or self-care is defined as the ability to take proper care of our daily living needs, like eating, sleeping, as well as achieving self-fulfillment, like exercising to keep ourselves healthy. But when living with depression, self-care can sometimes feel unattainable. Depression overwhelms patients with tiredness and feelings of despair, and drains them of the ability to look after themselves. From letting go of personal hygiene - like brushing or bathing, to disregarding your safety or health - like not wearing a seatbelt or forgoing your medications, a dismissal of your own need is often a sign of depression. Some may engage in unhealthy behaviors such as tobacco use, drug abuse or risky sexual behavior.

People experience depression in different ways, and more signs and symptoms are unlisted. But it is always good for us to shed light on mental health issues. If you can relate to a few of the signs above, it may be time to focus on your mental health — reach out for help from a friend or a counselor.

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