As we come out of the intensity of the holidays and enter the midst of winter, many people will be struggling to find ways to cope with depression. For some people, depression descends suddenly, however for many, the initial signs of depression are subtle. The signs of a developing depression are not yet as intense as major depressive symptoms and the person with the developing depression may be the last to know.
Some common experiences of people with developing depression:
• Decreased motivation
• Difficulty sleeping or sleeping way too much
• Increased substance use
• Decreased appetite, or increase in comfort eating
• Becoming more disconnected from people, or increasing contact with people to distract from negative feelings
• Increased defensiveness, irritability or anger
• Feeling life is unfair to you
• Becoming more judgmental
• Wanting to run away or wishing you just weren’t here anymore
• Feeling your friends or family should be more understanding of you
• Receiving complaints from friends or family that you’re not doing enough
• Receiving complaints from friends or family that you’re not sensitive to their needs
• Being unwilling to hear the cues you are receiving from family or friends
As depression creeps into your life little by little, you sometimes unconsciously seek to do only the things that feel good for you. As your motivation decreases, you may begin to inadvertently leave more of your responsibilities for friends or family to handle, while simultaneously expecting them to provide you with increased validation and support. You may not realize that you have gradually begun to do all of these things in an effort feel better. Furthermore, when they express frustration with your behavior, you may become defensive or angry, not only due to your increased irritability, but because people tend to become more self-focused on their thoughts as depression increases, resulting in less sensitivity to the needs of others.
The people who care for us serve as mirrors of our behavior. At times, those mirrors reflect parts of ourselves we don’t wish to see. Allowing yourself to hear what those who love you have to say, no matter how painful, can help you get treatment for your depression before it worsens.