Lists have their place and some people love them. Maybe you do? They are useful for the weekly shop for sure. But what if you are trying to understand depression and all you can find is lists of depression symptoms and nothing much else – surely not?
Well yes, I’m afraid so. There are lots of these lists around and though they are similar, they are not always identical. So what I have done is a small public service. I have taken a number of these lists of depression symptoms and weeded out items that were clearly saying the same thing. And then I have organized the 22 items that were left into six sensible groupings.
And then I have shown how these groups all fit together. So rather than having a long list in no particular order and not making much sense and which you may find quite daunting, there is now just lightness and wisdom.
What could possibly be better than that?
But first be reminded again what a depression is actually about, according to the Human Givens
A Depression is an utter exhaustion of the mind – where worries multiply and cannot be controlled or relieved and where rest and relief appear impossible, however hard you try. And by God you are trying. And the apparent impossibility of any rest and recovery fuels the worry and so exhaustion takes over until for some it can be unendurable.
And dreams are a central means by which exhaustions sets in. All depressed people dream a lot as they attempt unsuccessfully to clear all the ruminations and worries of the previous day. Excessive dreaming fires off the orientation response and so when we wake up in the morning our attention energy store is empty.
My sources for the representative list of depression symptoms were the NHS, the Mayo clinic, Boots and Retail Trust.
Twenty two Depression Symptoms – the definitive list and organised (by me) into six groups – so to make sense of them
- Low mood – miserable, sad and empty
- Tense, agitated or irritated, often at the smallest things
- Crying a lot
This is the obvious and well documented response to feeling exhausted – dreaming too much, being tired and not knowing what to do about it
- Thinking being failure and helpless, guilty and a burden
- Believing that life is not worth living or is passing you by
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
Bad thoughts then kick in – as you try to make sense of the situation. Of course as exhaustion increases, most of these thoughts just make the situation worse.
- Not doing well at work
- Taking part in fewer social activities
- Avoiding people, distancing yourself and feeling alone
- Neglecting your hobbies and interests
- Doing less and less and the smallest tasks seem too much
- Having difficulties in your home and family life
Your life then begins to unravel further because you do not have the resources and confidence to cope. This adds to worries and unhelpful thoughts of course and feeds a self feeding cycle.
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much or waking up early
- Enduring physical aches and pains which appear to have no physical cause.
- Unable to focus on tasks, to concentrate, to make decisions or to remember
In many ways this is the key group – but in all the lists of symptoms I have seen, these are just thrown in somewhere down the bottom. This is because the role of dreaming is not understood. But if you are engaged in too much dreaming, then deep wave sleep is insufficient and this causes physical problems and concentration problems and the like.
- Being preoccupied with negative thoughts
- Fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that aren’t your responsibility
- Losing self confidence, with a pessimistic view of the future
- Spending a lot of time thinking about what has gone wrong, what will go wrong or what is wrong about you as a person.
- Thoughts of suicide or self harming becoming dominant
Rumination is fed by all the previous groups and so the self feeding just gets worse. I call this the Depression Vicious Cycle.
- Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
- Increasing addictive and dangerous behaviours – not caring and looking for relief
For some, these are the desperate consequences as they just do their best to cope.
So there you have it. It turns out to be quite easy to make sense of all those symptoms – if, and it is a big if – you actually know what causes depressions in the first place.