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In 2021, over 32 percent of the U.S. population, or one in three American adults, struggled with depression. A growing number of kids and teens are also grappling with the disorder—over 2.5 million youth have severe depression and research suggests that multiracial youth are at even greater risk.
“Events such as COVID-19 have become a major risk factor contributing to the rise in rates of depression,” explained Chris Liggio, LCSW, Clinical Supervisor Outpatient Behavioral Health, Inspira Health. “We will likely be dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic and its effect on our mental health and well-being for years to come.”
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the country and yet it can be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms may be mild or severe and vary widely from one patient to another, preventing some people from recognizing the condition when it arises. Understanding the early signs and symptoms can help you identify depression and seek help if and when you need it.
Change in sleeping patterns
Whether you’re catching too many z’s or not enough, a change in your typical sleep pattern could be a sign of depression.
“Managing depression can be both mentally and physically taxing, causing some sufferers to sleep excessively,” said Liggio. “In other cases, negative, anxious thoughts may prevent you from falling or staying asleep at night.”
If disruptions to your normal sleep schedule persist, it’s important to assess the underlying cause.
Inability to concentrate
People with depression often find it difficult to concentrate or stay focused on tasks. The resulting “brain fog” causes sufferers to frequently forget things or misplace items. Over time, this can lead to a decline in productivity and should be addressed by a health care professional.
Irritability or mood swings
Everyone experiences mood swings from time to time, but if you begin feeling particularly angry or on edge, it could indicate a deeper-seated issue. While things such as stress or workload may be to blame, chronic irritability should not be overlooked as a sign of depression.
Aches and pains
We tend to think of depression as a strictly mental condition, but it can manifest in physical ways, too. Unexplained aches and pains—headaches, back pain or sore muscles—are common as we age but they can also be indicative of depression.
Change in appetite
Some people overeat when they feel stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, while others may lose their appetite altogether. As a result, people with depression may experience fluctuations in their weight.
Knowing the signs that may point to depression is the first step toward managing it. If you or a loved one is exhibiting any of these serious symptoms, don’t ignore the signs—schedule an appointment with your health care provider right away.