You know something feels off, you don’t feel like yourself. People closest to you say you’re moving a bit slower or smiling a bit less. You don’t have the same energy, you feel more irritable, or concentration is hard. You want to regain control of your life, to feel like you’re getting somewhere, but an unwelcome cloud in your mind is holding you back. So you’ve found yourself wondering:
Am I depressed?
How will I know if I’m depressed?
And what should I do about depression?
We’re going to explore one method you can use to test if you’re suffering from depression. My hope is to help you take the first step in naming your experience so you can be empowered to decide what to do about it.
Testing for Depressed Mood
I invite you to think of the next five minutes as an opportunity to engage in a conversation with yourself. Listen to the categories we’re going to cover, ask yourself not only if you relate, but also how you feel about relating.
The American Psychological Association counts out 9 potential symptoms of a major depressive episode.
I’m going to break down all 9 as you count how many apply to your experience:
- Do you experience low mood most of the day on most days? This could feel like sadness, but it could also feel like emptiness or hopelessness. Some might feel numb or emotionless, others may burst into tears. In minors this can even look like irritation.
- Do you experience a diminished interest or pleasure in things you feel you’d normally enjoy. Maybe the same pleasureful respites don’t cut it anymore, or maybe you’re finding yourself avoiding them altogether.
- Is your appetite more or less than it should be? This is one that can confuse people. Some experience an increase in appetite or weight gain during depressed mood. Others might experience a decrease in appetite or a decrease in weight.
- Are you sleeping less or more than you need? Similar to number 3, this is a time when either way isn’t helpful. Maybe you’re experiencing insomnia, which looks like either difficulty initiating sleep, difficulty sleeping in the middle of the night, or waking too early with an inability to go back to sleep. Or maybe you experience hypersomnia, defined as 10 hours or more of combined sleep in a 24 hr period.
- Are your movements slower than usual? Or are they more restless and agitated than usual? What do your friends notice?
- Do you experience fatigue or a loss of energy most days?
- Do you feel a sense of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt?
- Is your concentration or decisiveness slowed?
- Do you find yourself thinking often of death or experiencing a wish to not be alive anymore?
If you have 5 or more symptoms, you may be experiencing a major depressive episode. For many, this is a hard truth to realize, but there’s no reason for you have to wrestle through this by yourself. And while no questionnaire or test is the same as a diagnosis, my hope for you is that you feel you have a starting point as you begin speaking with a therapist.
But whether or not you came up with 5 depression symptoms, I’d invite you to ask yourself what this exercise brought up for you.
There’s no harm in asking a therapist for a free consultation to see if you might be a good candidate for a little extra help. All therapists at Here Counseling offer free consultations, and if we’re not the right therapist for you, we can help you find someone who is.
Wherever you are, whatever your experience, take hold of the reins of your life once more, and watch the days get a little bit brighter.