Eighteen Symptoms of Depression

Here is what I go through when I’m depressed. These aren’t exactly the official symptoms, but they give a better feel of what it is really like to be depressed. See if any of this sounds familiar.

The First Signs of Becoming Depressed are

1» I start waking up later. At first it doesn’t slip by much, just 10-15 minutes. But after a few days I may be getting up as late as half hour to an hour later than usual. Then when I wake up, I feel slow, as if I haven’t gotten enough sleep, although I have gotten 6-8 hours of sleep. Or sometimes even more.

It also becomes more difficult to follow my usual morning schedule of getting changed and getting out of the house. I often leave the house late, with some regular morning tasks undone, and often in more disarray than usual.

2» It becomes harder to do things. I know what I have to do, but I just can’t seem to take the next step and actually do it. For example, I might know I have to put the garbage out, but I just can’t get around to actually doing it.

I would see a set of books to put away, but there would be no true connection between the mess and the need to clean it up. I might understand in an abstract distant way that the two should be linked, but I still don’t actually link them together in any concrete terms of desire or need or obligation.

It’s not laziness or forgetfulness – it’s more like the idea of taking action keeps slipping out of my mind immediately after I think of it.

Alternatively, immediately after I think about doing something, I feel an equal impulse not to do it. It’s not that I don’t think I should do the task, it just feels as my body / mind is rebelling, and often it feels as if my chest or muscles tense up in refusal.

3» It becomes harder and harder to understand the task I am currently doing, and what the next step should be. My attention doesn’t wander – I just can’t figure out what is going on. It’s as if my intelligence level starts falling.

This affects even the day to day tasks that I can usually do effortlessly. They start to feel very difficult and if I can get away with it, I’ll put off whatever I’m doing until tomorrow. This inability to concentrate will affect any work or studying that you are doing.

4» Any decision becomes harder to make, from complex issues at work to simple things like whether to go to the supermarket this evening. Very often I waver back and forth on what to do and usually I tend to put off making any decisions at all. Or if I have to do something, I’ll take the path of least resistance.

For example, if I’m driving home, I’ll keep on changing my mind on whether to stop off at the supermarket (or the drug store, or the dry cleaners, or to visit a friend) until I pass it – and then decide I won’t go today. At office, I’ll put of decisions until the next day.

5» I forget things. If I realise I have to do something, I might forget about it within minutes. I might have something to do this evening and realise tomorrow that I forgot completely about it. I may have to meet someone tomorrow and forget about the meeting until they call to find out where I am.

There is no rhyme or reason for the forgetting. And I can’t say I’ll write it down because either I won’t (see item 2), or I’ll forget to look at my reminder list. Really. This happens.

As you can imagine, this can create havoc at work, and upsets friends whom you have stood up.

Very often these symptoms start at a low level, so I don’t notice them. And any or all of the symptoms could be mistaken for tiredness or not having the time to finish things in our modern fast paced life.

So if I left stuff off for later because I felt tired or if I don’t feel like doing anything because I had a hard enough day already, what’s wrong with that? This feeling of being justifiably excused for not getting things done is particularly strong if I’ve just come off a manic high where I’ve been incredibly productive.

It’s possible to continue for quite a while (measured in days or weeks or months) in this state of low level depression. Particularly if you have activities that must happen, like going to work, or carrying children to school and taking care of them. You’ll just feel tired all the time and all the optional things you have to do or would like to do just don’t happen. Your life gets dull, boring, lustreless.

Well, in addition to the lustreless life, you’ll start piling up lots of things, big and little, that need to get done. The groceries will sit on your countertop, your credit card bill won’t be paid, you won’t have carried the car for servicing, you won’t get around to buying the tickets for the concert you want to go to, you won’t have done laundry, you won’t have gone through the pile of papers on your work desk yet, you won’t have called your friend or your client. The dogs need to get bathed, the house needs to be swept, the DVDs need to be returned to the rental shop. You’ve been missing classes. You won’t have picked up a present for the birthday party. You won’t have watered the plants or collected your clothes from the dry cleaners.

You get the idea. No single thing is a critical problem, but you won’t do any, and you’ll find your life starting to crumble around you because of all the things you are failing to do. You’ll be aware of all the things that need to get done, but you just can’t get around to, well, doing them. And this is going to really really stress you out.

It is usually said that stress causes depression. I think this is flat out wrong. My experience is that depression causes stress, because low level depression creates all of the little problems that add up over the course of a week or two or more to create one big heaping pile.

Then you’ll really be stressed.

And the stress then makes the depression worse. For me, it takes only about one week of deepening depression and skipping out on the little things to create a huge enough backlog to drown me. If you have a hectic lifestyle, it can take even less time to derail you.

To make matters worse, you will also have annoyed your family, friends and co-workers by not doing what you are supposed to do. So in addition to knowing that you are failing on your responsibilities and your competence, you have to deal with angry people.

Depression is very much a downward spiral. The worse things are, the worse they get.

More Depression Symptoms

So far what has been happening, I classify as mild depression. The following are additional symptoms that I also get. I tend to think that they appear later in the depression episode. But it’s not so clear cut.

I suspect that all the symptoms all appear at the same time, but when the symptoms are mild, the following are either easier to miss or easier to overcome / work around. Then as the depression worsens, these start becoming more apparent because I can’t work around them any more.

So as depression episode deepens, what happens next?

1-5» More of the same. The 5 signs / symptoms mentioned above continue to happen. Of course by now, my life is starting to derail in a big way and I am now clearly recognising that I cannot fix what is happening because of these depression symptoms.

6» My self confidence falls drastically. I don’t feel as if I will ever succeed in anything. Which of course is made worse by the fact that I’m currently not succeeding in anything.

The loss of self confidence is not just because things are going wrong – it seems to be an intrinsic part of the depression itself. But like all parts of depression, the two pieces feed upon each other. You won’t do something because you don’t feel confident to do it, and then not doing it lowers your self confidence even more.

My self confidence usually fails to the point that I don’t like seeing myself a mirror. I try not to look in one, and when I do look, I do not see myself in the mirror, just a face that had no particular meaning to me.

7» I start losing a clear sense of identity or who I am. I feel as if I am acting in public all the time, or putting on “a public face,” or wearing a shell which does all the chatting and smiling, when all I feel like doing is staying at home and not talking to people.

It’s quite an effort to pretend to act like normal in public, but nobody seems to notice how fake my actions are. Which somehow makes me feel worse.

8» I begin to feel slightly lightheaded all the time. Everything feels as if it were a bit distant or dreamlike. I see and understand everything that is going on around me and will have a coherent discussion if someone asks me anything, but I don’t feel completely connected – as if everything around me isn’t quite happening to me.

Other people can notice this sense of disconnection – someone who talks to me will feel as if I am not paying attention or as if they are talking to someone who is not completely there. Or as if they are talking to a blank wall or a black hole. I’ve been told that this can be extremely disconcerting or very annoying.

9» I get anxious and nervous dealing with people. I feel as if everybody is going to accuse me of some little thing I did wrong, or shout at me. I feel as every little thing I do is being judged and that I am going to be criticised for doing it stupidly. I feel as if I ask for help or a favour I will be turned down or laughed at.

It doesn’t matter whether I’m at work requesting information from someone else, or if I am asking a friend if they want to go to the movies this afternoon. It doesn’t matter if I actually did something wrong or if I am doing a favour for someone, and it doesn’t matter if what is being discussed is important or trivial or silly. I always feel as if I am going to be yelled at.

There is no logic or sense to these feelings – the sensation comes from inside me, not from what is actually happening. As a result I send to avoid calling people or answering my phone, or even opening letters.

10» I stop talking much with friends and family or I don’t attend any social functions, even if I have told people I would go. I beg off at the last minute or I simply don’t show up.

This is a combination of three things – nervousness in dealing with people (item 9), the inability to think make decisions (item 4) and the sheer inability to get things done (item 2). It doesn’t manifest as the separate symptoms – I just think “I don’t want to go out – it’s too much effort to get organised,” to “There will be so many people there and I don’t want to deal with them,” to simply not being able to decide what to do, so I eventually end up with the default and stay home.

I can understand that attending the function is important – like a sixtieth birthday for an uncle – but I just won’t be able to get my my act together to go.

11» I tend to want to break off relationships. I feel that the relationships are too much work, or that I am not good enough to be in one, or that I don’t have the energy to spare to cope with a relationship while the rest of my life is failing.

Usually, up to this point I am still able to act and move around in public. I’ll be slower starting off and not getting all that much done as I should and not dealing with people well, but I’m still functioning of sorts. By this point, however, it is taking huge amounts of my energy and willpower to maintain a semblance of normal life. But at some point I fall into what I would call serious depression.

The I’m Seriously Depressed Symptoms

The onset period of serious depression for me is very sharp. It usually starts on an afternoon when I return from work into the safety of my house. I would have been fighting the depression symptoms for a few days, but when everything becomes a burden to do, I can fight for only so long. Once home, I stop fighting, because I can’t keep it up any longer, and I let the depression take over. It’s a battle lost. It’s a battle I always lose.

What happens next is

12» Communications fail completely. I don’t call my family or friends, and I don’t return phone calls.

I don’t answer my cell phone – if it is ringing I will ignore it or hide the phone under cushions so I can’t hear it. I’ll turn it off or put it in silent mode or not bother to recharge it when it discharges. I’ll unplug my land line from the outlet so I don’t have to hear the telephone ringing.

I don’t listen to my answering machine. Heck, I’ve asked the telephone company to deactivate my voice mail because I’ve realised it is pointless – I never listen to the messages.

I don’t read text messages or my e-mail and I don’t reply to them. I may lurk on social networks but I will not actively respond to any requests to contact me.

I may or may not answer my door bell.

I don’t want anyone to get in touch with me and I don’t want to get in touch with anyone. This includes my parents, my brother, my partners, my closest friends. Nobody.

I can’t call for help because by the time I realise that I won’t be able to fight the depression anymore, my ability to communicate or reach out to others has already failed.

13» I become terrified to talk to or hear from people. When I say terrified, I mean terrified – the fear factor is huge. I cringe at the thought that someone might talk to me. This is item 9, but magnified one hundredfold.

14» I hide in my house. I don’t go to work and I don’t go visiting people. I don’t want to go outside for any reason.

Any activity that requires me to leave the house stops happening. I stop going to the gym, I stop meeting with friends, I stop talking walks.

Well, I go out when I need food. But that’s I usually after I have rummaged through the entire house and eaten everything that is in a box or bag that needs only microwaving.

But

When the fear becomes high enough or when I have not left my house in a few days, I become scared that my family or friends might come looking for me. I no longer feel that my house is a safe haven. So I disappear.

I get in my car and go driving. I can drive for hours. Or go to the beach, or anywhere the people don’t know me and won’t talk with me. Or I might hang out in a KFC or a restaurant where they won’t throw me out and read for an hour or two.

I’ll stay out until very late, often going to a late movie so I have somewhere to be. I’ll return at midnight or later so I won’t have to see anyone. I sneak up to my apartment to see if anyone is there. If anyone is there, I don’t go inside. I get back in my car and go driving.

If there is no one there, I gratefully get into bed, but the next day I’ll wake up and leave the house early so no one can see me. And so the days go. From my family’s point of view, I disappear completely.

When I disappear, I don’t relax. The purpose is escape and all I want to do is to put my body somewhere reasonably safe and comfortable so I can shut my mind down to escape the terror I feel.

I spend days like this with an almost completely blank mind. Just enough of me is alive to make sure I eat and sleep and to be cunning enough so that the average person doesn’t suspect what is going on.

Because my mind is so blank, I usually have a hard time remembering what went on. I can only remember if I put a bit of effort into it.

On some occasions the terror factor was so high that even though I am home alone, I have hidden under my bed and read and slept just so that in case someone comes visiting, they won’t find me. This was when I was 35 years old.

15» I spend a lot of time trying not to think. I read the same magazines over and over again, and I read a lot of trashy sci-fi novels. Good science fiction, good literature and text books are usually beyond my ability to understand properly.

I watch television six to ten hours a day if I get the chance. Or more. I can easily watch television from 5 pm to 4 am without even getting up for dinner.

I can’t study or do anything productive that requires concentrated thought.

I don’t have the desire to do anything. Everything piles up to do. Clothes to be cleaned, dishes unwashed, garbage to be taken out, books strewn everywhere, bed unmade, clothes in the living room. You name it, it’s not done.

The inability to do things is not just for housework. It includes studying, work, social activities, brushing my teeth, bathing. I may abstractly think they might be important, but really, I am not thinking enough to care.

16» My sleep patterns become odd. I stay up until two or three in the morning, reading. I like being up after midnight because no one will bother me and so I feel “safe.” I dread that in the next few hours another day will start and people might want to talk with me.

I can spend sixteen or more hours a day sleeping. I would often sleep hoping I would not wake up, or that the world would disappear before I woke up.

17» I tend to crave food, particularly sugar. I can eat an entire box of chocolate cookies in half-hour. And then be disgusted with myself. And nauseated because I don’t particularly like sugar.

I tend to eat a lot. I can put of 2-6 pounds over the course of a three week depression. Which really doesn’t help my self confidence.

18» I become self destructive because I stop caring enough about anything. It’s not important to me if my relationship fails, or if I don’t go to work.

I tend to end up in a loop of destructive thinking – “Nothing matters anymore,” or “I don’t care” or “So what, I’m failing anyhow.” Or if the idea is sufficiently painful or requires thinking, I let it slip from my mind and I don’t think about it – because if I don’t think about the problem I don’t have to deal with it.

I become suicidal because of a combination of not caring and because it feels too difficult to continue living. And yes this happens in every depression. Most times I don’t do anything about it, but sometimes I try.

24 thoughts on “Eighteen Symptoms of Depression

  1. I’m glad I found your blog…I’m and on the very down side and feel like I’ve crashed and burned. Last week I ruled my world. This week, I can’t imagine how I can cope with my life for one more second. Your blog is me…I feel lucky to have found it because it gives me hope. I don’t feel so alone.

      • Hello…much better. I started on a new med on Friday ….viibryd. I’ve been on anti depressants since the Prozac days. While I probably need more, a simple AD takes a huge edge off and keeps my moods pretty even. I had to stop as I was put on a heart med that interacted with my AD. When off them it seems to go up for a week then crash for another..thank you for asking

  2. Totally me right now. Just sent this to my husband as well. He has a difficult time understanding, because I can’t communicate when I’m in the depths of the downward spiral and when I’m not I have no desire to explain (which translates as relive to me). We’ve been married about a year and a half, so he hasn’t had a lot of experience with it.

    • I’m tired of apologizing to hubby for who I am. When he attains perfection then he can complain about me. I’ve been with mine for 30 yrs. He thinks all I need is a pill and I’ll be fine, For the most part I am. Being BP not only make me a “crazy person” it is also what has made me the deep, compassionate, caring creative person I am. Right now I’m on an even keel..who knows when that will change.
      Just know that just because he doesn’t understand, there are a ton of us that do..look for us, we are all over the internet 🙂

  3. wow! i’m so glad to have found your blog. i’m sorry you’ve felt such lows but your blog articulates how my depression has been for the last 2 years. i went from being super productive member of society to now i can barely get out of bed or wash or maintain at a basic level. i’ve read hundreds of blogs but this is the first time i’ve felt compelled to comment because your experience really resonates with my current and past experiences. i’ve just been waiting for it to pass as well..i’ve had short stints of recovery – where I had short term jobs and would show up for social functions but as of now my future looks so bleak that it just keeps me in bed even further. i never thought i’d be such a lazy nothing.

  4. Good morning. I finally got to my Dr and he put me on Lamictal and said it was great. I also take a xanex at night to relax me. It helps me sleep. I did do ambien but found I was doing a lot of online shopping I had no recollection of doing. Anyway, I’m crossing my fingers

  5. My brother recommended I might like this web site. He was totally right.
    This post actually made my day. You can not imagine just how much time I had
    spent for this information! Thanks!

  6. This is an amazing site. Reading it has brought me to tears as it puts into words clearly how I feel and how it manifests into my behavioural changes. I am reading this while hiding under the duvet where I have been now for about a week and am feeling particularly low. I am 38 yo and although I have not been diagnosed with anything I had an 18mth period from the start of 2011 where I was off work and prescribed Citalopram and Tamazepam for the duration. The doctor said it was a temporary state of debility triggered by some negative life events at that time. On the whole people can not believe i can be depressed as my persona is one of an extrovert…..or so I thought as what I have realised is that it is my manic episodes that people know/ remember me for and that, being honest, I enjoy being. I have had weekly CBT since then and for over a year I have felt fine, ‘fixed’, but things have slowly fallen apart again in the past couple of months. I am now convinced I am losing everything: mind, job, friends, family a future. My GF found this site….she is my rock. Reading this has forced me to realise that I need help, that I am not the only person who feels scared or physically sick at even the sound of a text arriving on my phone or hiding in the bathroom when the door bell goes, that this may not be fixed per se but only managed…..that writing this reply has already lifted a weight off my mind. Where I go from here I do not know, but at least I know I have to do something….

  7. I think what you’ve said really nails it, I get the same symptoms. The not caring about friendships, relationships and work I have frequently, even on good days. I just don’t care anymore…..but thanks for sharing and it’s good to know I’m not alone.

  8. Had I not known better I would have swore my husband had written this. I didn’t believe manic depression was real. I heard it was a catch all name for psychiatrists who really didn’t know how to diagnose patients. I myself suffered a long bout of depression mostly for various family issues and a stressful lifestyle, but eventually I crawled out of the hole. Depression can leave anyone feeling hopeless, but the symptoms of manic depression seem a lot worse like there will never be a hole to climb out of. My husband has difficulty maintaining a job and there is a pattern of behavior at each place of employment. He usually gets irritated at others who get to keep their job for being slackers and yet if he says anything to them or management, he is the bad guy. He is always looking for the holy grail job, but he seems to be living out the same job no matter who the co-workers are or place of employment. He often sabotages our date nights which I had so looked forward to having a good time. He recently interviewed for a job which he swore not to get his hopes up about. He got to researching about whether his license would transfer to the next state and was devastated to find out that it didn’t and he would have to put in re-training for that class in that state. Another disappointment was he wanted to go to see a drive in movie with me something we had not done before, but didn’t realize that the drive ins were only open on weekends. We went to a normal theater, but I might as well have gone alone because he did not seem to be enjoying himself during the movie. I didn’t bother asking him what his favorite part of the movie was or anything. He had a bad headache and he asked me what restaurant I wanted to go to. I said Wendy’s because he was driving that direction, not that I really wanted to go. He drove right on by it and drove around aimlessly before he asked me again later where I wanted to go and I said Panera and so we got take out from there. I didn’t know why he wanted to eat or drive around if his head hurt. I have no idea how to lift his spirits or my own. He depends on me emotionally and mentally. I don’t mind listening to his concerns or hearing him vent, but it gets old over and over hearing the same issue that is never solved.

  9. I found this blog accidentally and it is so weird. Everything you wrote almost exactly applies to me. But another problem for me is that when I reach the last few points, I cry a lot and sometimes can’t controll it until I am so tired that I have to sleep. Also, I have a physical illness and problems with my health insurance covering it. I think this has even been the trigger for everything.
    The big difference is that I am not manic. I was switching between being “normal” and mildly depressed for years and am now stuck in a moderate to severe depression for about a year.
    I live with my parents and can’t finish the last paper to finish my degree. For one year I haven’t done anything and I am so embarrassed and too scared to contact my professor.
    My mother is severly depressed too. I am scared to get treatment because I fear that my health insurance will cause me even more problems then.
    I am lost 😥

  10. Hello,

    I’m really glad that I ran across your blog. My boyfriend has depression. We’ve only been together for a few months, but I’ve been trying to understand what he’s experiencing more, because there are periods where I don’t hear from him. At first I thought that it was my fault and I’d upset him, but after talking to him about it and reading your experiences I’ve realized that’s not true. I just wish there was more that I could do. I know that I should give him space and I do, but I also want to know if there’s anyway that I can be there for him, in a way that doesn’t make him uncomfortable. If that means just sitting around and watching tv with him, I would love to do that. But is that still asking a lot?

  11. I’ll add my voice to the chorus above: This is by far the best description of depression I’ve ever read. This should be printed in textbooks and become compulsory reading for all. Thank you very much, and very well done.

  12. Thank you for writing this. It’s a vicous loop of knowing your f*cking up and doing nothing about it further f*cking things up.

    I’m a year and bit deep now of my second serious bout like this. Can see light at the end of the tunnel hopefully. Tommorow I’ll get back on track. Tomorrow, always tomorrow. Unless I don’t get up at a good time, or if the wrong person tries to get in touch. or put everything together ready to start an actual productive day and do nothing.

    Thanks to everyone for contributing comments as well

  13. Pingback: Muddled Thoughts….& More Baking With Rhubarb.

  14. This is exactly how I’m feeling right now. Too scared to look at my text messages and answer the phone. People are thinking I’m ignoring them but really I just want to escape the world and be alone. If it wasn’t for my two kids I would of killed myself already but I can’t. I’m suffering having to live this miserable horrible life instead. I feel like I’m sinking and slowly being pulled down and I have no way of getting out. Depression sucks, i just want it to stop!

  15. I’ve been at various points on your scale for nearly 30 years now. I am SO tired. I have to fight with my body and mind to get through every day. If I had no responsibilities I’d literally just sit and stare at the TV from now until I die. I don’t want anyone to come near me or touch me or God forbid engage with me or want something from me. My existence is just a burden to the people I love….but I don’t end it all because I don’t want my 3 children to have to deal with a nutcase mother who topped herself. So I take the pills and plod through the daily Mom / Wife stuff. I WAS an accountant…but now I simply can’t handle the stress of being responsible for one little thing. Having to be responsible for any task makes me anxious & stressed – I fucked up so many times, let people down so many times that I can’t bear to hurt anyone anymore. Right now it’s midday, I’m in my nightie and dressing gown…I should be cleaning the bathroom, doing washing, doing ironing, but my body is so so heavy all I want to do is curl up into a ball and sleep. BUT I can’t …so I’ll make myself do the bare minimum to make it look like I care, and to make my daughter’s afternoon nice. I don’t open up any more to the people that have always said, ”We love you, we can help you” because I’ve failed them so many times. I don’t want to talk on the phone, see visitors, go places…..but I fetch my little one from school and make all the right noises with the other mums. I help out at school, I go to church when my little one wants to. My husband has NO idea what to do with me. I closed off to him when I found a message from him to his ex saying he stays only for our daughter. I’m NEVER putting my heart out there ever again. I’m just too fragile. His be-all-and-end-all is our daughter so he’ll always put up with me as I was the one that enabled him to have the daughter he thought he’d never have. I just wish I could lie down , fall asleep, and never wake up again…..and that him, his daughter and my 2 other sons wouldn’t be affected by that. I wish I could die and not have to kill myself. It’s easier to handle a natural death than a suicide.

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