Depression signs: How do I know if I should ask for help?

by | May 3, 2021

In some cases, and due to numerous circumstances, we get to feeling depressed, hopeless, sad and/or melancholic. This is normal, as all human beings experience a wide range of emotions. You cannot permanently be happy or in a state of excitement. Life presents us with circumstances such as losses, separations, and crises that we could not overcome if we did not first go through grief.

However, when these negative emotions become part of a person’s life for a prolonged period of time, it could be a strong and clear sign of depression. It is not enough to feel just one symptom, but several of them must persist for a person to be considered depressed.

In previous articles we have mentioned how the number of people with depression has increased worldwide in recent years. In 2017, the WHO published some alarming figures regarding this. About 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression. So many, that this is sometimes called the disease of the century because of the significant increase it has had in the last decade.

It is necessary then, to pay more attention to the symptoms and to be well informed because this is a mental disorder that can be easily diagnosed by health professionals. But before going into detail about the signs of depression and whether you should ask for help, let’s review its definition to make it very clear and delimited.

What is depression?

The WHO defines it as “a common mental disorder characterized by the presence of sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or lack of self-esteem, sleep or appetite disorders, feelings of tiredness and lack of concentration”.

To this definition, it can be added that the symptoms persist over time and the person can experience limitations that prevent the development of their normal life. Generally, work, academic and social areas are greatly affected.

Similarly, the person may perceive their life as lacking in meaning and purpose, so they constantly think that it is not worth doing more. In extreme cases, the person may consider taking their own life in the face of this overwhelming feeling.

Depression does not come out of nowhere, although sometimes there are no apparent reasons for it to appear. That is why psychological therapy, especially CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is of great help in finding the cause or causes, which lead to the presence of this mental disorder.

Causes of depression

Depression can be generated by several causes. Generally, it is not just one cause, but a combination of several that influence and put the person at risk of suffering from it more easily. Let’s see below each one of them: 

Biological causes: 

Here we can group together several factors, such as alterations of neurotransmitters, hormonal processes and genetic factors. Regarding the neurotransmitters, it cannot be said that depression is directly caused by an alteration in them. The diminished presence of serotonin, for example, does not automatically determine the appearance of depression.

The precise hormonal causes have not been determined, or at least there are no definitive studies in this regard. It has been possible to determine that women are more likely to suffer from depression, however, it has not been proven that it is due to hormonal changes or at least there is no research with evident results. It is possible that during pregnancy or in the postpartum stage, hormonal changes can occur that lead to depression. The same thing can happen during menopause.

On the other hand, family history can be a determining factor. Genetic causes are present, especially when there is a history of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder in relatives. Similarly, there is an increased risk when alcoholism or drug addiction are present.

Psychosocial causes:

These are events that produce negative emotions in the person with depression. They are difficult to accept and at the same time they are very important. Their interpretation of these events is disturbing. It can happen in any relevant area of your life, such as emotional, work or health. Some common cases are: a divorce, the death of a loved one, job layoffs or the diagnosis of a serious illness, just to mention a few.

Generally, depression developed from these causes is usually temporary and can be overcome quickly with the help of mental health professionals.

On the other hand, the factors can be related to the family environment. People who were victims of violence during their childhood may have a strong tendency to suffer from anxiety and depression in the adult stage.

Personality Causes:

Some personality types are more prone to depression than others. Those who are insecure or extremely perfectionist. Harsh criticism of themselves and low self-esteem are important risk factors to consider.


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Signs of Depression

Symptoms of depression may occur only once in a lifetime, but in most cases they occur in several episodes. When the symptoms are persistent and occur in a group, at least 5 of them, it is considered that the patient should seek professional help.

Depending on the severity of the case, it may require combined treatment of drugs and psychological therapy. It has been shown to be quite effective, with promising recovery figures.

Let’s review 13 of the warning symptoms that you should consider in order to seek professional help: 

  1. Sadness, discouragement, susceptibility to crying, and hopelessness.
  2. Irritability and frustration, even over minor details.
  3. Anxiety, restlessness.
  4. Insomnia.
  5. Fatigue, lack of energy most of the day.
  6. Serious difficulty concentrating on tasks, blurring.
  7. Slowness of movement and speech.
  8. Guilt, self-criticism and pigeonholing of past events.
  9. Loss of pleasure in general, such as sexual pleasure, socializing or practicing hobbies that used to entertain you.
  10. Loss of appetite or overeating, weight loss or obesity.
  11. Low self-esteem, devaluation.
  12. Suicidal thoughts.
  13. Physical symptoms without physical cause such as headaches and backaches, stomach aches, or fatigue.

Presenting several of these symptoms for a prolonged period of time is a warning sign and it is necessary to seek help. If there is any conflict or prejudice about seeking mental health professionals, the situation may worsen, since the person will avoid going to the doctor, continue suffering, and postpone the improvement or solution.

It is recommended, in any case, to talk to a family member or loved one that we know will not judge us and place our trust in that person, even more so, if we are not able to seek adequate help. Family support has proven to be a key element for patients with this and other mental disorders.

Let’s remember that the chances of success are greater when we are willing to be helped. There is nothing wrong with people who suffer from depression. It is not their fault, there is no reason to be ashamed and it is not due to lack of will, because this type of situation can happen to any human being. We are all susceptible to suffering from depression.

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