The inability to get out of bed. A crippled sense of self-worth. Constant dread and continuous isolation. Most people would be able to recognise the classic signs of depression at its worst.
But these stereotypical markers hardly paint the full picture of what the mental illness actually looks like. After all, the World Health Organization claims a whopping 50 percent of the 300 million people currently living with depression go untreated — even in the highest-income countries. This could be for many reasons, including the fact that depression can be hard to recognise.
“People often stigmatise depression and are in denial that they are depressed,” says Dr Susanne Cooperman, a psychologist at NYU Langone. “They are often used to muscling through stressful situations and depressing periods in their lives, and… they are kind of surprised when people tell them they are [depressed].”
So, here, Cooperman shares some unexpected depression symptoms in women. Sure, at some point, all of us have experienced one (or all) of these signs, and that’s totally normal and okay. If. however, these symptoms are true for you all day, most days, it’s best to talk to your doc to determine if you’re depressed.
You regularly lose your temper
Can’t stop snapping at your partner, your co-workers… and even your dog? According to a 2013 study in JAMA Psychiatry, “overt irritability/anger” was a symptom for more than half of people experiencing more severe and longer-term depression. Uncharacteristic agitation is a sign of depression in both adults and children, Cooperman says.
You’ve started waking up super early
Depression can cause some women to sleep. All. The. Time. But Cooperman explains that others start sleeping less, often waking up in the wee hours of the morning. If, all of the sudden, you are consistently rising at about 4 or 5am. with the inability to go back to bed, you may be experiencing a sign of depression.
Your hobbies just aren’t fun anymore
This isn’t to say that losing interest in a two-week knitting fad means you’re depressed. “But an example could be that you used to love cooking, and it just doesn’t give you pleasure anymore,” Cooperman says. “It’s very hard, when you’re in that place, to get out of that depression, because usually by engaging in pleasurable activities you feel better, but now there’s no motivation, no interest, and even if you get yourself to do do it, the enjoyment doesn’t kick in. It’s kind of a catch-22.”
You’re glued to social media
Have you been more addicted to Facebook and Instagram than usual? According to Cooperman, this uptick in social media scrolling could be one tactic that people with undiagnosed depression use to ignore the root cause of what’s ailing them. “It’s a distractor that also gives you a little bit of a high,” she says. “There’s a little adrenaline spurt every time you get a message [or like], which is kind of like self-medicating by increasing the adrenaline that is in your system. This can lead to adrenal fatigue and burnout because you can only do that so long.”
Your lower back hurts like crazy
Depression spikes the chances that you’ll deal with low-back pain, according to a 2015 research review. And the worse your depression, the worse your pain. Experts currently believe that depression causes nerves to become extra sensitive. Meanwhile, if low-back pain interferes with your quality of life or limits what you can do, it can easily worse your depression, according to researchers.
Your weight is all over the place
It’s common for depression to be paired with an increase or loss in appetite, says Cooperman. “Some people might be losing weight, which in the beginning they might enjoy,” he says. “But over time, the loss of appetite will leave you with less energy.” Other people will react by snacking throughout the day, especially on foods that are high in sugar and fat. “You snack on potato chips and then you feel bad about yourself; it increases low self-esteem because you put on weight and it’s an endless cycle,” he explains
You are suddenly the most indecisive person ever
Obviously, you can be indecisive without being depressed, but sudden or increasing indecisiveness is actually a major depression symptom in women, according to research published in Cognitive Therapy and Research. A sense of hopelessness, or even expecting the worst possible outcome from every choice, may play a role, according to researchers. What’s more, when people who are depressed do land on a decision, it’s often a bad one (think: alcohol, skipping work, risky sex).