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The brain is a delicate piece of equipment that isn’t impervious to damage. Every year, millions of people experience depression. If you’re feeling off, your body may be giving you signs that you are depressed and need some support. Here are three things to look out for when it comes to minding your mental health.
#1: You aren’t eating like you used to
The body is an intelligent machine and knows that it needs proper nutrients and sustenance to operate at its full potential. But depression isn’t just a looming feeling of sadness. It’s a chemical imbalance that can disrupt our eating patterns.
“Depression is typically caused by a lack of serotonin or dopamine,” said Darren McMahon, LSCW, LCADC, Outpatient Wellness Manager at Inspira Health Center Woodbury and Glassboro. “Because the body can’t naturally produce enough of these hormones, it starts to look for other sources—food being one.”
“This is where the term ‘comfort food’ comes from,” said Andria Balicki, LPC, LCADC, ACS, Manager of Outpatient Behavioral Health Services at Inspira Health Center Bridgeton. “Eating sugary desserts and foods high in carbohydrates trick the brain into releasing serotonin. Though it may temporarily make you feel better, eating poorly will only exacerbate the problem long-term.”
Dietary changes caused by depression can include:
- Skipping meals or avoiding food altogether
- Eating large quantities of food in a short period of time
- Only eating foods high in sugar or carbohydrates
#2: You notice changes in your sleep patterns
Though we may have an occasional night or two of tossing and turning, sleep hygiene is a good indicator of your mental health status. About 75 percent of adults with depression experience insomnia.
“Depression is characterized by feelings of sadness, loneliness and despair. But, it's a mood disorder and the imbalance of hormones can impact our ability to fall or stay asleep,” said McMahon.
Depression-related sleep issues can include:
- Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Not wanting to get out of bed or oversleeping
- Feeling sleepy during the day
#3: You no longer enjoy the things you once did
Life is stressful, so it’s okay if you’re not always jumping at the chance to do the things you once enjoyed. But prolonged feelings of disinterest should not be ignored. It can be a symptom of depression.
“The medical term for this is anhedonia, which is the inability to feel joy from social or physical pleasures,” said Balicki. “Though anhedonia can often be linked to environmental stressors like feeling stressed at work or having relationship problems, it is one of the primary ways we diagnose depression. So it’s important that you don’t ignore it.”
Anhedonia-related symptoms include:
- Not wanting to spend time with friends or family
- Feeling angry toward or taking your anger out on others
- Having little to no desire to be physically intimate with a partner
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you may benefit from talking to someone about how you’re feeling. Know that you are not alone and there are options available to help you address your mental health needs. Connect with a counselor at Inspira Health by calling 1-800-INSPIRA.