Recognizing the Signs of Depression: An Example

Everyone has heard of depression, but do you really know the signs of depression? Knowing the signs of depression for yourself or a loved one could make a huge difference in your life. Depression is an incredibly common mental health disorder that is also very treatable. If you don’t recognize the signs of depression, you might not pursue counseling or other treatment that could help.

signs of depression

Many of my clients come in with only a vague sense that “Something’s Wrong”. They are unable to articulate why they are struggling in their life. Many of them will complain about feeling down or “blah”. Most have heard of depression, but because they don’t know the signs of depression, they don’t realize that they’re depressed. Others may be minimizing their state of mind, denying that they are depressed at all.

This is all certainly understandable given the poor amount of education that people receive about mental health. And there’s the inevitable factor of denial. Even though the signs of depression are right in front of them, it’s hard to see and admit as much because it would be painful to acknowledge something that significant is going on. 

I’ve written a more formal analysis and description of the psychiatric criteria of the signs of depression here, but today I’m going to provide you with some examples to give you a feel for how people actually experience their depression firsthand. 

An Example of Depression

Dave is a 28-year-old male. He has a job in the oil and gas industry that he doesn’t really like. He just fell into it after college, but it takes a lot of his energy. He doesn’t feel that he can do much after work and tends to sleep a lot on the weekends. He’s been upset that he’s having a hard time starting a relationship. He feels very ashamed about this and is growing hopeless that he’ll ever meet anyone. The loneliness is so bad that he finds himself crying several times a week. Compounding the situation, he’s packed on a lot of weight recently because he’s always hungry, and that’s only making him feel more despondent. He’s been trying to stay busy with some hobbies, but none of them sound interesting, and when he starts them, he feels he can’t concentrate, gets frustrated, and quits. On his worst days, he asks himself why he’s living at all. 

Dave thinks his sadness is justified given the situation he’s in and thinks everything would be better if he could just get a girlfriend. His friends suggest counseling, but when Dave comes in, he surprised that his therapist suggest he might be depressed

Sound familiar? Maybe your situation isn’t anything like Dave’s, but let’s look at some of the signs of depression that Dave is struggling with:

  1. He lacks energy and feels fatigued.
  2. He’s sleeping an excessive amount.
  3. He’s gained weight and has an increased appetite.
  4. He feels worthless and guilty. 
  5. He feels sad and hopeless.
  6. He’s lost interest in things that were once interesting to him.
  7. He’s having difficulty concentrating.
  8. He’s having thoughts of dying or being better off dead.

Poor Dave! That’s eight of the nine official signs of depression. (The one symptom missing is moving very slowly physically or with agitation- at least he doesn’t have that going!) Dave is moderately depressed without realizing it because he doesn’t know the signs of depression. He believes his perceptions, moods, feelings, and actions are all justified given the state of his life, and he feels there’s nothing he can do about it.

There is Hope!

I can name a number of things that I would do if Dave came into my office, and yes, that includes learning some dating skills once his mood is improved enough that he would have some odds of getting a date. There’s a lot of work to be done but from my perspective it’s hardly a hopeless situation.

I hope this small example will help you recognize the signs of depression for yourself or someone else and encourage you to seek some help.