Being unhappy isn’t the same as being depressed. Depression is a term often used loosely to describe how we feel after a bad week at work or when we’re going through a breakup. But major depressive disorder — a type of depression — is much more complicated. There are specific symptoms that determine whether it’s depression or the sadness we all sometimes experience in life.

1. Hopeless outlook

Major depression is a mood disorder that affects the way you feel about life in general. Having a hopeless or helpless outlook on your life is the most common symptom of depression. Other feelings may be worthlessness, self-hate, or inappropriate guilt. Common, recurring thoughts of depression may be vocalized as, “It’s all my fault,” or “What’s the point?

2. We can’t just snap out of it

This can be frustrating to hear, and it shows that the person you’re speaking to really doesn’t understand how you’re feeling. You can’t just snap out of depression – it’s impossible. I’d describe depression as feeling like drowning – no matter how hard you try to fight back it overpowers you and there’s nothing you can do about it. Depression feels like a constant battle and it’s exhausting.

3. Lost Interest

Depression can take the pleasure or enjoyment out of the things you love. A loss of interest or withdrawal from activities that you once looked forward to — sports, hobbies, or going out with friends — is yet another telltale sign of major depression.

4. I don’t want to hurt you

For friends and family, it can be hard to watch someone you love suffer from depression, and it can be difficult to understand how to help and what to do. Depression is a very selfish illness and I find that often we can push people away in order to protect them. With depression, there are also feelings of guilt and fear of letting people down. We may take things personally or say something that is horrible but we don’t mean it. It can be hard to love and care for someone with depression but standing by someone and showing them unconditional love and care is one of the best things you can ever do for us.

5. Increased fatigue and sleep problem

Part of the reason you might stop doing things you enjoy is that you feel very tired. Depression often comes with a lack of energy and an overwhelming feeling of fatigue, which can be among the most debilitating symptoms of depression. This could lead to excessive sleeping. Depression is also linked with insomnia as one might lead to the other and vice versa. They can also make each other worse. The lack of quality, restful sleep can also lead to anxiety.

6. We appreciate your kind words and how you’re trying to help

It can be hard to know what to say and what to do to help. Sometimes offering some kind words can be helpful and we may not seem like we appreciate it but we really do. It can be hard for us to show feelings of gratefulness but the kindness showed really does mean a lot to us.

7. Uncontrollable emotions

One minute it’s an outburst of anger. The next you’re crying uncontrollably. Nothing outside of you prompted the change, but your emotions are up and down at a moment’s notice. Depression can cause mood swings.

8. We’re trying our best to get through it

Depression is something that we have to work through. I’ve learned that recovery isn’t something you choose once – you have to choose it over and over again. We can’t just let go and ignore depression, it has to be treated appropriately by a medical professional. If we have to use therapy and/or medication as a way of working through our depression please do stand by us. There’s no shame in asking for help. Depression can make us feel isolated and lonely and having someone by our side can make us feel less alone.

9. Achievements that you see as small are big to me

Achieving goals that we set for ourselves makes us feel proud. Other people’s goals may be to get high grades or get a job but sometimes just getting out of bed or talking to someone about how you’re feeling is an achievement. Be proud of us when we achieve these goals. These achievements bring us a step closer to recovery and someday we will be able to achieve bigger things, but for now, it’s about putting one foot in front of the other and achieving little things to give us that sense of accomplishment.

10. Depression isn’t a choice

We don’t choose to be depressed. It can affect various things in your life such as relationships, work, and education. We don’t choose to have a low mood all the time and find everything an effort. Depression is out of our control we can’t do anything to stop it from happening to us. We aren’t weak because we have depression.

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